Friday, May 3, 2013

Book Review: His Majesty's Hope by Susan Elia MacNeal (Maggie Hope #3)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Maggie and the other characters, well created world
Cons: One sub-plot, usual timing issues
The Bottom Line:
Nazi Germany
Book captures time and place well
So hard to put down

Hope in Nazi Germany

World War II has always fascinated me, so I've been loving the Maggie Hope mysteries.  These books follow our heroine as she finds herself in some very strong international intrigue during the early 1940's.  His Majesty's Hope is the third in the series, and takes Maggie into Germany.  And these are almost perfect examples of what historical fiction should be.

Maggie Hope has successfully completely her spy training this time, and is ready to go behind enemy lines.  Her mission in Germany is two fold.  First, she is supposed to deliver radio tubes to the resistance.  Then, she must plant a bug in the study of Clara Hess, a high ranking Nazi who just happens to be the mother that Maggie thought was dead.

Meanwhile, in Berlin, Clara’s other daughter Elise is about to make some horrible discoveries of her own concerning the kids she works with as a nurse at the hospital.  Elise’s friend’s husband is a Jew, and the friend lives in constant fear that he will be summoned to go to a work camp.  And there’s the mysterious patient in the hospital that doesn’t speak at all.  How will all this come together?

Actually, I had a pretty good idea of how a few things would play out early on, but I couldn't wait to see those scenes actually happen.  I was not disappointed.  As a mystery, this book was a little light, but the spy part of the novel kicked things up, and I had a hard time putting it down.

When historical fiction is done right, it transports you to a different time and place, and that is exactly what happens here.  I was in Berlin of 1941, and I had a hard time coming back to reality when I had to put the book down.

Of course, part of that reality is quite depressing, and the book does a good job of covering the reality of the Nazi horrors without going into graphic detail.  Still, of the three books in the series, this is by far the most serious.

That seriousness is reflected in the characters.  Both old and new are very well developed, and I bought exactly what they were doing at every step along the way.  But the events of this book really do wear on them more so than the previous books.  The last few chapters are not light reading, but they are so good.  Personally, I am quite anxious to see where the characters go from here.

Unfortunately, my usual complaints carry through as well.  The timeline is all over the place, but if you just let that go, you'll still enjoy the story.  And Maggie's personal life feels all too familiar, especially the last scene.  Not that I can't wait to see how that picks up in the next book.  Worst of all was a sub-plot involving a friend back in London that had nothing to do with the overall story and felt like it was there just to preach instead of entertain.

Complaints aside, His Majesty's Hope is must reading for anyone who enjoys good historical fiction.  Just read this series in order because you will enjoy them best as you watch the characters develop.

NOTE: I received this book as an ARC via the Amazon Vine program.

You'll enjoy this books best if you read the Maggie Hope Mysteries in order.


  1. Good review, Mark! (I found it through the Cruisin Thru the Cozies challenge.) You do a great job of discussing the strengths and weaknesses of this book. I've grown increasingly fond of the series, which I think gets better with each installment. Maggie is a compelling and appealing character.

    I noticed the same thing about the subplot involving Maggie's friend, but I keep wondering whether something about that will become important in a later book. I also think that it's there in part to show that Britain had its share of prejudice and harshness toward those who are different in some way.

    If you're interested, I reviewed His Majesty's Hope a few weeks ago; you can see my review here.

    1. Thank you so much for your compliment.

      I am certain you are right about the sub-plot I complained of. However, it still feels tacked on and preachy to me no matter what the intent of the author was.

      Off to read your review.