Monday, May 27, 2013

Mr. Churchill's Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal

Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Local Library
Read: May 21, 2013

London, 1940. Winston Churchill has just been sworn in, war rages across the Channel, and the threat of a Blitz looms larger by the day. But none of this deters Maggie Hope. She graduated at the top of her college class and possesses all the skills of the finest minds in British intelligence, but her gender qualifies her only to be the newest typist at No. 10 Downing Street. Her indefatigable spirit and remarkable gifts for codebreaking, though, rival those of even the highest men in government, and Maggie finds that working for the prime minister affords her a level of clearance she could never have imagined—and opportunities she will not let pass. In troubled, deadly times, with air-raid sirens sending multitudes underground, access to the War Rooms also exposes Maggie to the machinations of a menacing faction determined to do whatever it takes to change the course of history. Ensnared in a web of spies, murder, and intrigue, Maggie must work quickly to balance her duty to King and Country with her chances for survival. And when she unravels a mystery that points toward her own family’s hidden secrets, she’ll discover that her quick wits are all that stand between an assassin’s murderous plan and Churchill himself.

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I am so disappointed Susan Elia MacNeal's Mr. Churchill's Secretary didn't work for me. It looked like such perfect fit - a mystery set against my favorite historic event, but try as I might I just couldn't get into this one. 

Part of the problem was the tone in which the story is written. Despite taking place in London during 1940, the characters seemed detached from monumental events taking place around them. They were too unconcerned, too passive, too indifferent. Even when bombs were falling from the sky the tension one might expect from those living in the shadow of the blitz just wasn't there.

I also found it incredibly difficult to appreciate heroine Maggie Hope. Her views were too modern and she was entirely too outspoken for the period. Her demeanor and thought processes grated my nerves something terrible, often leaving me annoyed with her and disgruntled with the story in general.  

My biggest issue, however, was that the book felt distinctly American. The British have a much different manner about them, their society follows different rhythms and I don't think MacNeal was at her best in recreating them here. 

As usual, I refuse to allow a single installment to turn me off a series, but I will certainly be approaching book two, Princess Elizabeth's Spy, with a degree of caution. 

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Maggie drew herself up in her straight-backed wooden chair and lifted her chin. I'll show you, she thought. I'll show all of you. "I'm ready for anything Ma'am."
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Tara said...

I did not like this one either. Same reasons.

The Flashlight Reader said...

Really? And here I thought I was the only one. Everyone else seemed to absolutely adore this one.

Diana Leigh said...

I remember Kate Morton's The Secret Keeper painted a vivid picture of life during the Blitz. It should have made a big impact on this book too!

The Flashlight Reader said...

I have that one on my reading list! Maybe I'll bump it up. Thank you Diana. :)