Mr. Churchill's Secretary: A Maggie Hope Mystery

mr churchill's secretary susan elia macneal

I love spies. I especially love female spies. Ditto female double-agents.

Back in the spring I featured Elizabeth Mahon's review of Mr. Churchill's Secretary on BlogHer and I said in my introduction how the book seemed to hit all my sweet readerly spots. It's historical fiction. It's set in WWII London. It features a smart woman. And there's even some code breaking and a Bletchley Park connection. What wasn't there for me to like?

I had a really busy spring so I didn't get around to grabbing it right away. When I was at BookExpo America I was the annoying person at the publisher's booth bugging them about where the line was for Susan Elia MacNeal's signing was a good 30 minutes before her signing. I snagged myself a signed copy of Princess Elizabeth's Spy even though I still hadn't read Mr. Churchill's Secretary. And still I waited because I was busy and I knew I didn't have time to fall into a book the way I was likely to fall into this one.

By the time the end of the summer rolled around I was ready. It was a long weekend and we took a quick detour on the way home from the Canadian National Exhibition to grab a copy from the library. (Yes, I'm talking about a book I read at the end of summer. THAT'S HOW FAR BEHIND I AM.) Once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down.

I liked Maggie a whole lot. She's smart. She's not just a little smart, she's very smart and she knows that if she were a man she'd have way more opportunities available to her. She also is not fond of letting that stop her. She pushes. She prods. She gets herself into trouble because of it. Maggie is, quite simply, awesome.

Another thing that I loved about what Susan Elia MacNeal did with the novel is that's it's an alternate history. It doesn't follow the true events of WWII. It takes a lot of from them but it adds new events and scenarios. MacNeal doesn't try to make her story fit the limits of history and her story is the all the stronger because of it. And while I do love steampunk and magic, it's nice to see someone doing an alternate history without those elements.

I've been trying hard to get more books off my shelves and out of the house. We simply have too many. I haven't been buying books aside from cookbooks (a weakness, though one that's also running into space issues) and e-books. It's a sign of how much I loved this book when I put it on my Christmas list and was thrilled to receive it.

If you like novels set in WWII, with a little bit of mystery, some seriously smart women and that is just a whole lot of fun you should get acquainted with Maggie Hope. Immediately.