Welcome to Mystery Monday. Today’s feature is Mr. Churchill’s Secretary, a Maggie Hope novel by Susan Elia MacNeal. Mr. Churchill has just been sworn in as prime minister, war is raging in Europe, the Blitz is imminent, and when Diana Snyder is murdered, Maggie Hope is recruited to take her place as one of the Prime Minister’s secretaries.
British, but having been raised by an aunt in America, Maggie has returned to England to sell her grandmother’s house. When it doesn’t sell, she decides to stay and contribute to the war effort. She shares her large Victorian house with five other young women and begins her job at No. 10 Downing St. in a bit of a snit because, being an exceptionally clever mathematician, she had none-the-less been turned down for a job working in cryptography because of her gender. However, there are hints that something more is going of which Maggie is unaware.
While Maggie doesn’t go out of her way to try to solve Diana’s murder, she finds herself the target of spies, one of whom is a roommate living a double life. The danger for her intensifies when she tries to find out why her father isn’t buried beside her mother. This causes friction between her and her aunt back in Boston because Maggie hadn’t been aware that her grandmother had been living in London while she was growing up nor had she been honest about her parents’ deaths. In wartime London, Maggie and her roommates purchase and install a bomb shelter, the IRA is responsible for letter bombings, anti-Semitism is growing, and Maggie and her friends in cryptography — David and John — share information and give us glimpses into both the underground war room and the character of Prime Minister Churchill (based on research from interviews with and books by real secretaries who worked with Churchill at that time).
This is a well-written historical fiction novel with lots of tension as bombs drop and terrorists close in as well as some laughs, interesting characters and relationships, and some of the deprivation as well as the pleasures of wartime London. It is fast-paced and compelling and the first of a series. I’m looking forward to reading all of the novels in this series. * * * * 1/2
If you, too, are a fan of mysteries, I hope you’ll not only enjoy my Monday posts but will contribute by publishing your own Monday Mystery, mentioning my meme, then come to my blog, comment on your mystery (or mine) briefly, and include the link directly to your mystery review. You can also copy my MMM badge to your post.