Mr. Churchill's Secretary (Maggie Hope Series #1)

Mr. Churchill's Secretary (Maggie Hope Series #1)

3.7 83
by Susan Elia MacNeal
     
 

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For fans of Jacqueline Winspear, Laurie R. King, and Anne Perry, Mr. Churchill’s Secretary captures the drama of an era of unprecedented challenge—and the greatness that rose to meet it.

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.

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Overview

For fans of Jacqueline Winspear, Laurie R. King, and Anne Perry, Mr. Churchill’s Secretary captures the drama of an era of unprecedented challenge—and the greatness that rose to meet it.

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.

In this daring debut, Susan Elia MacNeal blends meticulous research on the era, psychological insight into Winston Churchill, and the creation of a riveting main character,  Maggie Hope, into a spectacularly crafted novel.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A plucky heroine isn’t enough to salvage a plot overly dependent on contrivances, as shown by MacNeal’s debut set in 1940 London, the kickoff to a series. The murder of Diana Snyder, a secretary in Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s office, creates a vacancy that American expat Maggie Hope agrees to fill, despite her umbrage at having been previously passed over for a more substantive position there. Maggie adjusts fairly quickly, even as the people of London strive to withstand both German bombs and IRA outrages. Since those behind Snyder’s fatal stabbing as well as their motive are identified early on, the suspense mainly lies in whether Maggie will be able to use her intellect to foil a plot aimed at decapitating the British government. On several occasions, disaster is averted purely by chance, undermining efforts to credit Maggie with saving the day. Agent: Victoria Skurnick, Levine Greenberg Literary. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
Advance praise for Mr. Churchill's Secretary

“This wonderful debut is intelligent, richly detailed, and filled with suspense.”—Stefanie Pintoff

“A terrific read . . . Chock full of fascinating period details and real people including Winston Churchill, MacNeal’s fast-paced thriller gives a glimpse of the struggles, tensions, and dangers of life on the home front during World War II.”—Rhys Bowen, author of Royal Blood and winner of the Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards 
 
“Think early Ken Follett, amp it up with a whipsmart young American not averse to red lipstick and vintage cocktails, season it with espionage during the London Blitz, and you’ve got a heart-pounding, atmospheric debut. I loved it.”—Cara Black, author of Murder in Passy
 
“England in 1940 is the perfect backdrop for a courageous young woman who outwits the enemy. A vivid tapestry of wartime London.”—Carolyn Hart, author of Escape from Paris

“An engrossing page-turner, with a delightful and spirited new heroine in the aptly named Maggie Hope.”—C. C. Benison, author of Twelve Drummers Drumming

Library Journal
British-born but American-raised Maggie Hope, a math whiz with an MIT graduate school offer on hold, went to London to sell her late grandmother's home. Now it's 1940, and she is passionate about staying to help with her birth country's war effort. As a secretary for the prime minister's office, she is privy to Winston Churchill's inner thoughts. But unbeknownst to Maggie, a mole is working nearby, burrowing deep inside 10 Downing Street and making plans to cripple England's leadership. Already, one secretary has died at the hands of IRA activists colluding with the Nazis, but Maggie's shocking discoveries about her own family further threaten national security. VERDICT Watch out for the smart girl who can crack codes with her slide rule. The appeal of real-life characters populating the story works well in this solid historical cozy debut. MacNeal squeezes in plenty of World War II facts but never slows the pace. I like pairing this with Maureen Jennings's Season of Darkness and Sarah R. Shaber's Louise's War.
Kirkus Reviews
Trying to sell your grandmother's decaying Victorian house back in London can have unexpected consequences. Maggie Hope was born in England, but after her parents were killed in a car accident, her aunt, a college professor, took her along when she accepted a position in Boston. Unable now to sell her grandmother's house, Maggie is forced to take in roommates to keep things going. Her degree in math from a prestigious college apparently means nothing when she applies for jobs that would use her considerable skills to aid Britain, now in the throes of World War II. Her friend David Greene, one of Winston Churchill's private secretaries, prevails on Maggie to take on a secretarial post at 10 Downing Street, where her predecessor was murdered. She does her best with her job and enjoys a busy social life with her friends and roommates: Chuck, an Irish girl training to be a nurse; Paige, a Virginia debutante Maggie met in college; Annabelle and Clarabelle, "the Dumb-Belles"; and, most recently, Sarah, a ballerina. While the Luftwaffe is raining bombs on London, the IRA is doing its best to help Germany with sabotage and espionage. Maggie and her friends are caught up in the situation when it appears one of them may be aiding the IRA. In the midst of this intrigue, Maggie is shocked to learn that her father is still alive. Though she has little time to spare from her job, she's determined to track him down. Brave, clever Maggie's debut is an enjoyable mix of mystery, thriller and romance that captures the harrowing experiences of life in war-torn London.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780553593617
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/03/2012
Series:
Maggie Hope Series, #1
Edition description:
Original
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
37,933
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Advance praise for Mr. Churchill's Secretary

“This wonderful debut is intelligent, richly detailed, and filled with suspense.”—Stefanie Pintoff

“A terrific read . . . Chock full of fascinating period details and real people including Winston Churchill, MacNeal’s fast-paced thriller gives a glimpse of the struggles, tensions, and dangers of life on the home front during World War II.”—Rhys Bowen, author of Royal Blood and winner of the Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards 
 
“Think early Ken Follett, amp it up with a whipsmart young American not averse to red lipstick and vintage cocktails, season it with espionage during the London Blitz, and you’ve got a heart-pounding, atmospheric debut. I loved it.”—Cara Black, author of Murder in Passy
 
“England in 1940 is the perfect backdrop for a courageous young woman who outwits the enemy. A vivid tapestry of wartime London.”—Carolyn Hart, author of Escape from Paris

“An engrossing page-turner, with a delightful and spirited new heroine in the aptly named Maggie Hope.”—C. C. Benison, author of Twelve Drummers Drumming

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Meet the Author

Susan Elia MacNeal is the Barry Award–winning and Edgar, Dilys, and Macavity Award–nominated author of the Maggie Hope mysteries, including Mr. Churchill’s Secretary, Princess Elizabeth’s Spy, His Majesty’s Hope, and The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent. She lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with her husband and child.

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Mr. Churchill's Secretary 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 80 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fun to read and I learned a bit of history. I really liked the main character who was a woman mathmatician. It's rare to find a female main character who enjoys and excells at math and/or science!
Iwant2Bawriter More than 1 year ago
This is not an incredibly well-written book, but it is fun to read. All the cryptography and researched details about Churchill are good and it truly transports you to London in the WWII era. Recommend it as a fun read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful look at WWII and the role of women during that time. While not much of a whodunnit, it is a very intriguing historical mystery with wonderful characters. My only disappointment was that it ended too quickly.
dr_cac More than 1 year ago
Ms. MacNeal's first Maggie Hope is simply great fun. It may not be great literature but it is fast paced and keeps your interest... if you are a mystery buff. I happen to enjoy WWI and WWII novels so this one is spot on. Maggie and her chums are people you'd be interested in but remember... not all is as it seems. The only unfortunate aspect is having to wait till October for the 2nd in this series.
JacksonvilleReader More than 1 year ago
I was disappointed with this book. The story was interesting, but the writer's style was poor. I found it hard to follow her transition from one character's situation to another at times. I had to go back and re-read several pages to see where I missed the connection. There were a number of unconnected sections. For instance, letters from the Aunt were included, but nothing was ever mentioned from Maggie's point of view that the letters were received and read and the impact. I doubt seriously I'll buy another book written by this author.
RonnaL More than 1 year ago
Maggie Hope is a new character in the many mysteries about women in war times. She was British born, but was raised by her aunt in America after her mother was killed in a car crash and her Dad 'lost it' mentally.  After graduating top in her class with top skills in math and languages, she's planning to get a graduate degree at MIT, but her plans change when she returns to England to sell the old family home.  Getting a job in England is hindered by the prevailing attitude that 'women belong in the home, or in support jobs'.  She has mixed feeling about her secretarial job at #10 Downing Street but is prepared to do ALL  for home and country. Frustrated by her seeming menial secretarial job, her position changes when she decodes a covert message she finds in the newspaper.  This comes along with her replacing PM Churchill's sick secretary.  Everything's comes fast and furious after that.  Murders, spies, bombs, and differing views about Hitler mixed with Irish IRA resistance actions, keeps everyone anxious and working to keep England in the winning mix of war. What adds extra interest to this book is the well researched addition of views on women, spies, Churchill, and decoding enemy messages. The factual research for this fictional book is spectacular!  There are also relationships between diverse friends and family secrets that made this book a cut above the present popular WW2 women mysteries like the Jacqueline Winspear series.  If you enjoy this genre, you need to add this Maggie Hope series to your reading list!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Unfortunately, the author's style is poor and the plot tends to wander. For really good books of this genre, try Deborah Crombie or Jacqueline Winspear - both masters of the British mystery with memorable characters and vivid English settings.
Pat-in_IL More than 1 year ago
Even though the book started out a little slowly, the majority of the book made up for this. There were several plot twists that kept me reading just to find out what would happen next. I enjoyed the mixture of fiction with the descriptions of actual occurrences during World War II. I highly recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A truly pleasurable story to read, full of intrigue and adventures
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Found the Nook edition a little difficult to read. Paragraphs flowed into one another, when characters and setting changed. It was very confusing. Seems like their should have been a break between the different scenes. On the other hand, this fictional piece was very well researched by the author. The story was very interesting and filled with twists and turns. I enjoyed the book, and had problems putting it Down. Interesting story, learned a bit more about Winston Churchill and pre war England.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not well written, not historical. Predictable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
this book has it all: suspense, thriller, love, intrigue, history
Maryrm More than 1 year ago
Enjoyable with good story and interesting people in the story. Kept up interest until the end. Waiting for the second book in the series
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked this book. It wasn't as heavy as most WWII novels. An easy read with likeable characters.
LadyZin More than 1 year ago
I loved it. I just finished reading Series #2, equally exceptional. Cannot wait to read Series #3. Being born in Coventry, it brings back a lot of my parents memories as they lived through it.
K_Holt More than 1 year ago
An exciting blend of historical fact and well-woven fiction. I LOVED this first book in a series. Fascinating, three-dimensional characters, twists in the plot I didn't see coming (but knew they had to be there, somewhere), delightful inclusion of real people from history (Winston Churchill), and the threat of war. Highly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great book.  I've read all of them.  If you like the PBS series "Foyle's War," Youll love this!
Deacon_Tate More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading this book. It sets up the series and introduces the characters. I had read the second book first. I will be keeping this series on my to read list.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Can't wait for the next one!
MaraBlaise More than 1 year ago
London 1940. Margaret “Maggie” Hope wants to work for the British intelligence, but as she is a woman she ends up being a typist at No. 10 Downing Street.  But she has a knack for code breaking and soon she does a lot more den typing for the prime minister. This book was OK, not fantastic to read, but enjoyable since I love historical mystery books. Maggie Hope is a good character and there were a lot of likable characters around her. I can't say that I really liked her relationship with John. For some reason their relationship didn't click for me.  The plot in this book was interesting, there is a plot to kill Winston Churchill and it doesn't take much brain work to figure at that one person around Maggie isn't who she is saying she is the question is who? There wasn't really any real twist to the story, no real aha moments. Everything unfurled nicely along the way and that was the problem, I wanted the story to be a bit more problematic, more nerve chilling, but alas, it was not to be. Still I will continue with the series. I liked the book enough to feel that I want to read more and I especially liked Winston Churchill in this book.
MerleF More than 1 year ago
Fascinating combination of historical novel, mystery, and character development. As one who remembers much of WWII (as an adolescent) and has read much of the Enigma Project, I loved this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The basic story is interesting, if unlikely. I did not find it absorbing...it had too much farfetched and improbable stuff in the plot, and the romance is too predictable. Maggie is a well-drawn character and the portrait of Churchill was good. The dialogue in general does not sound right for Brits or Americans of the period, but it moves well. There are other annoying anachronisms that a little more research would have avoided. One that isn't a spoiler is that Maggie's aunt could not have got a PhD from Cambridge. Not only were PhDs uncommon in Oxford and Cambridge back then but Cambridge did not grant women degrees until later than the aunt would have been in school. Stuff like this doesnt bother everyone, and if you just like a sperficial thriller, it might be fine.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
billcstf04 More than 1 year ago
I am a sucker for good spy stories and this one is right up there with Alan Furst. The Ordinary people caught up in great events idea is really a great sub-genre. Bill
dibbylodd More than 1 year ago
This is an engaging story of an aspect of WWII. Having watched Foyle's War, I was struck by how much alike some of the scenes were. The research is extensive. Unlike another review, i did not find that a problem. On the contrary, it was quite fascinating to me. The main character is an interesting one. She is British, but spent most of her life in the US. The topics of women's rights (even just being treated as intelligent humans!) and homosexuality are dealt with well. I look forward to more of this author's work.