BOOK BIZ: Intrigue, code breaking, mystery at No. 10 Downing Street

by Lynn Lofton

Published: May 10,2013

Mr. Churchill’s Secretary is a work of fiction, but there are enough historical figures and facts to make it authentic. It’s a blend of fact and fiction. The author researched many sources, including journals and other accounts written by real people who worked on Winston Churchill’s staff during the turbulent days of World War II.

Mr_Churchills_Secr_rgbThis book is Susan MacNeal’s first novel and leads off the Maggie Hope mystery series. I didn’t think of Mr. Churchill’s Secretary as a mystery but rather as a war tale full of history, intrigue, Nazi spies, IRA operatives and much more. However, now I’m eager to get her second book, Princess Elizabeth’s Spy.

But, back to Mr. Churchill’s Secretary where we’re introduced to Margaret Hope, a brilliant young college graduate who excels in mathematics. She was born in London but reared in America by an aunt after an accident takes the lives of her parents. She returns to London to settle her grandmother’s estate and decides to stay on in the large old Victorian house she’s inherited.

Even though she has the skills of the finest minds in British intelligence, her gender only qualifies her for a job as a typist at No. 10 Downing Street. Her indefatigable spirit and remarkable gift for code breaking rivals the highest men in government. Always thinking analytically, Hope breaks a code and after much wrangling persuades those higher in the echelon to take her seriously. Because of her, lives are saved along with the venerable St. Paul’s Cathedral. The code, embedded Morse code in drawings of models wearing the latest fashions in newspaper advertisements, was actually used by Nazi agents in England — a fact only discovered in 2006.

Because of her work for Churchill, Maggie Hope gains a level of clearance that makes her a target of violence, espionage and betrayal by someone she trusts. She also encounters more opportunity than she could have imagined and learns the truth about her parents.

MacNeal’s first book was nominated for a Barry Award and a 2013 Edgar Award for Best First Novel by the Mystery Writers of America, and it won the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association’s 2013 Dilys Award.

» Mr. Churchill’s Secretary
By Susan Elia MacNeal
Published by Bantam Books
$15.00 paperback   

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