Number Ten Downing Street, with Churchill as the P.M. and Germans bombing London, is the setting for Susan Elia MacNeal’s first book in the Maggie Hope spy mystery series – Mr. Churchill’s Secretary. With a mix of Bridget Jones panache and Ian Fleming espionage, MacNeal establishes a new sleuth with a mathematical brain and the charming mix of English parents and American upbringing.
Maggie Hope defers her acceptance into the Ph.D. program at M.I.T. to travel to London to sell the old Victorian house bequeathed to her by her British grandmother. When the war starts, she takes on roommates and, despite her qualifications, can only get a job as a typist.
Spies are everywhere, and Maggie soon uncovers a code hidden in an ad for women’s dresses. MacNeal supplies a reference in her historical note about Nazi agents in England embedding Morse code in drawings of models wearing the latest fashions. Maggie finds Morse code in the hem of a dress.
The secret of Maggie’s father’s disappearance as well as the murder of one of Churchill’s staff add to the suspense, and the action escalates with a plot to murder Churchill and bomb St. Paul’s Cathedral. Along with descriptions of the horrors of London during the Blitz, MacNeal includes excerpts of famous speeches and lovely poems you may want to memorize.
By the end, Maggie has saved the day and been offered a promotion. A fun, fast read with both history and adventure – and a possible romance brewing for the beautiful and brilliant red-head.
Thanks to Amy for introducing me to Maggie Hope. I can’t wait for the next book in the series – Princess Elizabeth’s Spy – to be published in October. In the meantime, as Churchill advises – KPO (Keep Plodding On).