Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Book Review: Princess Elizabeth's Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal (Maggie Hope #2)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great characters; pulls you in
Cons: Timing/editing flaws and a couple of weaker plot points
The Bottom Line:
Historical trip
Filled with royal characters
Engrossing story

Hope Goes to Windsor Castle

World War II fascinates me, so when I started hearing raves about the Maggie Hope series, I took note.  The series stars an American raised British citizen who has found herself involved in international intrigue in 1940 LondonPrincess Elizabeth's Spy is her second adventure, and it was a good read.

It’s been a couple of months since Maggie first found herself caught up in World War II danger in London, and she is being sent out on her second assignment.  This time, she is going to be a maths tutor for Princess Elizabeth.  But it is much more dangerous than it sounds since Maggie’s new boss at MI-5 thinks there is reason to believe someone is going to try to harm the heir to the throne.

Maggie hasn’t even settled in when there is a grisly murder.  But did the target die or was the princess the true target?  As Maggie gets to know the rest of the people staying at the castle, will she be able to figure out what is happening?

Those hoping for more about the characters from the first book will be delighted to know that much of the cast does make cameos.  The story doesn’t allow for much more than that, but I enjoyed their brief appearances.  That means that Maggie is surrounded by a new cast of characters, and they are sharply drawn.  Maggie herself is still an interesting, determined woman who will stop at nothing to get her job done.  And the book is filled with real historical people.  Obviously, I don’t know what they were really like, but I enjoyed seeing them portrayed here.

The pacing of the plot is much better here than in the first book.  Yes, there are sections where things slow down, but they don’t last for long.  And with a sub-plot involving Maggie’s family as well, it really does feel like something is always happening.  The climax?  Well, I had to stay late at work the night I read it since I couldn’t put the book down on my lunch hour.

Unfortunately, the book does have a few flaws.  The first is the fact that I called all the twists in Maggie’s personal life sub-plot very early.  One aspect of the plot is abruptly dealt with, and while I think I figured out what and why, it was important enough it should have been handled better.  But my pet peeve with timing issues also bugged me.  I could not figure out what day of the week it was for a section of the book.  Either it was a very long day or a week passed with no one paying attention.  Then there were the simple mistakes like someone emptying a drink twice in two paragraphs.  Still, these were minor and I enjoyed the book overall.

So if you are looking to travel to England during World War II, you’ll find Maggie Hope to be a competent guide.  While not perfect, I certainly enjoyed Princess Elizabeth's Spy.

And you'll enjoy the stories most of you read the Maggie Hope Mysteries in order.

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