Friday, July 5, 2013

A Couple of WW II Era Mysteries

It's been awhile between posts.  I've had a strange ailment that lasted almost a month.  It started as extreme dizziness and queasiness, then improved into lingering, mild disequilibrium and queasiness.  I could function after about 5 days of feeling terrible, but still didn't feel like reading or writing as much as usual.  Anyway, I seemingly have recovered.  No cause discovered.

Now I head out to Virginia for a visit with my mother on Sunday, but first I'm going to do a quick review of two recently read books just to get my feet wet again.


Mr. Churchill's Secretary
by Susan Elia MacNeal mystery
Bantam Books Trade Paperback, 2012

Princess Elizabeth's Spy
by Susan Elia MacNeal mystery
Bantam Books Trade Paperback, 2012

Many bloggers have reviewed this new series, featuring Maggie Hope who (initially) is employed as a typist at No. 10 Downing Street despite her impeccable academic credentials graduating at the top of her college class.  However, soon even the hard-nosed people who work for Winston Churchill come to recognize and appreciate Maggie's mathematical prowess and gifts for code breaking after she saves Churchill's life. 

Set during the early days of World War II when Britain was holding off Hitler and suffering the consequences, this series is steeped in the atmosphere of that time and place.  Likable characters and intriguing plots have made these strong debut novels, nominated for multiple awards.  I'm impressed with MacNeal's research, and the cover art is attractive, helping to sell the books to readers.

By book two, Princess Elizabeth's Spy, Maggie has become a spy for MI-5 and sent undercover at Windsor Castle to protect Princess Elizabeth, "Lilibet" as she is affectionately known to her family.  This book has entertaining glimpses into the lives of the palace inhabitants during the war.  There are plenty of plot twists and turns, double agents, and a harrowing, but satisfactory, ending. 

The third book in the series, Her Majesty's Hope, was published in May.  I have some issues with the excerpt I read, but it still shapes up to be another fascinating look at events surrounding World War II.  This series is best read in order as plot lines build on one another.

Susan Elia MacNeal
Susan Elia MacNeal has an excellent web page that provides additional background about the writing of her books and research for the Maggie Hope series.  MacNeal graduated cum laude from Wellesley College, with departmental honors in English Literature and credits from cross-registered classes at MIT but MacNeal claims she was math-phobic in school. She attended the Radcliffe Publishing Course at Harvard University and states that secretly, even unconsciously, she wanted to be an author.

MacNeal interned at Random House before moving up the editorial ladder at Viking/Penguin and McGraw-Hill, and then becoming an associate editor at Dance Magazine.
She is married to an actor and has been fortunate to travel frequently to London with her husband, which led her to discover an interest in the lives of civilians in war-torn London.  She and her husband are parents to a seven year old boy.