Publisher: Bantam Books, 2012
Genre: Mystery/Historical Fiction
My Rating: A
I’d like to introduce you to a new story star today. If this were a TV series, the casting would have to be perfect. This new story star, Maggie Hope, is super-smart, especially in mathematics, good at analyzing people, and she has an eye for catching things in the environment that aren’t quite right.
I don’t have a particular actress in mind, but it needs to be one that can fulfill all of that and still be polite and British-proper, and a tiny bit naive. That may seem like a big order, but this new story star is that good. She’s a character I liked spending time with, just like a weekly TV series.
Before I go any further, let me tell you what the story is all about:
As World War II sweeps the continent and England steels itself against German attack, Maggie Hope, former secretary to Prime Minister Winston Churchill, completes her training to become a spy for MI-5. Spirited, strong-willed, and possessing one of the sharpest minds in government for mathematics and code-breaking, she fully expects to be sent abroad to gather intelligence for the British front.
Instead, to her great disappointment, she is dispatched to go undercover at Windsor Castle, where she will tutor the young Princess Elizabeth in math. Yet castle life quickly proves more dangerous—and deadly—than Maggie ever expected. The upstairs-downstairs world at Windsor is thrown into disarray by a shocking murder, which draws Maggie into a vast conspiracy that places the entire royal family in peril. And as she races to save England from a most disturbing fate, Maggie realizes that a quick wit is her best defense, and that the smallest clues can unravel the biggest secrets, even within her own family.
There were so many twists and subtle moves in the story that I had the impression it really happened. And that’s how really good historical fiction should be. The other thing I liked was all the places this novel took me. How else would I know about the gloomy corridors of Windsor Castle or the manor house that was turned into a spy headquarters?
Sometimes a novel will give the reader so many characters that the reader has to keep a “cheat-sheet.” In this novel the variety of characters was just right. I didn’t have to keep a cheat-sheet at all. There were plenty of “people” to fill out the story. I didn’t spend a lot of time with Princess Elizabeth, but it was just enough for the story. I liked the way the author pointed us to character traits in Princess Elizabeth that forecast and carried over to the real adult Queen.
Overall, the best thing about the story was the superb mystery. I did not solve it ahead of time, and I’m glad I didn’t. My interest was invested all the way to the end. This made for an excellent murder mystery and spy thriller.
Princess Elizabeth’s Spy is the second novel in Susan Elia MacNeal’s series featuring Maggie Hope. Perhaps we’ll get a TV series, if there are enough books written. I’m rooting for the author to keep going. I want more. Maybe I should start looking at prospective actresses?