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Spy and code-breaker extraordinaire Maggie Hope returns to war-weary London, where she is thrust into the dangerous hunt for a monster, as the New York Times bestselling mystery series for fans of Jacqueline Winspear, Charles Todd, and Anne Perry continues.
England, 1942. The Nazis’ relentless Blitz may have paused, but London’s nightly blackouts continue. Now, under the cover of darkness, a madman is brutally killing and mutilating young women in eerie and exact re-creations of Jack the Ripper’s crimes. What’s more, he’s targeting women who are reporting for duty to be Winston Churchill’s spies and saboteurs abroad. The officers at MI-5 quickly realize they need the help of special agent Maggie Hope to find the killer dubbed “the Blackout Beast.” A trap is set. But once the murderer has his sights on Maggie, not even Buckingham Palace can protect the resourceful spy from her fate.
Praise for The Queen’s Accomplice
“Maggie is a thoughtful spy whose dangerous escapades never disappoint.”—Kirkus Reviews
“A fine historical mystery given a feminist slant.”—Booklist
“Plausible and elegant . . . Like all MacNeal’s novels, this one ends on a cliffhanger that will leave readers eagerly awaiting Maggie’s next adventure.”—Shelf Awareness
“Works as a suspenseful stand-alone . . . interesting and informative . . . wartime London is vividly portrayed . . . recommended for those who like their historical mysteries with a large dose of suspense.”—Historical Novel Society
“For those who are Maggie Hope diehards, this latest in the series is sure to satisfy.”—Reviewing the Evidence
“MacNeal’s meticulous research shines through on every page, and pays off with a wartime atmosphere that feels real.”—Crimespree Magazine
About the Author
Susan Elia MacNeal is the Barry Award–winning and Edgar, ITW Thriller, Dilys, Agatha, Macavity, and Lefty Award–nominated author of the New York Times bestselling Maggie Hope mysteries, including Mr. Churchill’s Secretary, Princess Elizabeth’s Spy, His Majesty’s Hope, The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent, and Mrs. Roosevelt’s Confidante. She lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with her husband and child.
Read an Excerpt
Something was wrong. Maggie Hope was sure, but she couldn’t yet put her finger on it. What could it be? Frowning, she went over the encoded document yet again.
Maggie was working as a girl Friday in a dim reception room at 64 Baker Street, at the Special Operations Executive’s offices. It was in an anonymous gray limestone building down the street from Sherlock Holmes’s fictional address and Regent’s Park, only one of the many unremarkable SOE offices scattered around the Marylebone area of central London. Because of lack of space in Whitehall, Baker Street and its surrounding area had become home for SOE, and several buildings had been fitted with discreet plaques reading inter-services research bureau. The staff and those in the know called it the Firm, the Org, or the Racket, and its employees were known as the Baker Street Irregulars, in honor of Holmes’s young informants.
The atmosphere in the shabby third-floor offices of 64 Baker Street was informal, with almost everyone sipping mugs of hot tea and smoking Gauloises, men and women passing through speaking perfect French. The icy reception room was small and narrow, with only one window and a low ceiling. A fire extinguisher and a notice pointing out the direction of the air-raid shelter decorated one wall, while a tacked-up postcard of the Arc de Triomphe covered the cracks of another.
Maggie wore an old skirt, a white blouse, and a thick navy-blue wool cardigan patched at the elbows. She was never without her pearl stud earrings, a graduation gift from her Aunt Edith, and her long coppery hair was up in a bun that had begun the day tidy but was now slipping, tendrils springing free around her face and neck. She sat at a dented metal desk with a Remington typewriter, behind a line of telephones in assorted colors, and an overflowing wooden inbox.
Only twenty-seven, Maggie had already performed any number of missions as an agent for SOE, but had taken a desk job in London while she was waiting for the arrival of her German half sister, Elise Hess, a Resistance worker in Berlin. Her rescue to London, ordered by Prime Minister Winston Churchill himself, was taking longer than expected—but Maggie knew all too well these missions never went exactly as planned.
And so she waited, and while she did, she made herself useful at the SOE offices. When she wasn’t greeting prospective agents arriving for their various interviews, she was checking coded messages transmitted by F-Section agents. After all, she’d been secretary to the P.M. himself—as well as saving the life of the Princess Elizabeth, parachuting into Nazi Berlin, teaching at a paramilitary camp, and keeping the First Lady of the United States of America safe from scandal. How hard could managing an office be? And it was only temporary, until her half sister arrived in London and settled in.
On this Saturday afternoon, as the light from the grimy window began to fade, Maggie was performing a task known as “code check,” going over an agent’s transmission from the field, making sure all was in order. Maggie—a mathematics prodigy who’d graduated summa cum laude from Wellesley College, with a special aptitude for codes and ciphers—liked to try her hand at transposing the worst of the garbled messages. As she worked, she rubbed absently at an ink stain on her blouse’s cuff and then buttoned up her sweater against the office’s chill.
Maggie knew the Morse coding systems intimately, knew how to “unscramble the indecipherable.” What looked to be problems in a given message might occur simply because an agent had transposed two letters, or misspelled a word. Each agent had a characteristic set of mistakes, and Maggie had quickly come to learn each one’s unique style of communication. For example, some agents routinely misspelled certain words—bad habits from childhood. Then there were the trademark sign-offs; a few liked to end with a simple Goodbye, while others sent Lots of Love, and yet another’s was Tallyho!
Maggie was worried about this particular message, from agent Erica Calvert, a young geologist who’d made a midnight boat landing on the beach near Normandy a few weeks before. Something was . . . not right. Calvert had studied earth science at St. Hilda’s at Oxford and was considered an expert on sand grains. But this particular message from her—well, Maggie had never seen anything like it. It was what they called “mutilated,” which might have been caused by atmospheric conditions. But Erica’s writing was also uncharacteristically clipped.
Most troubling was that Calvert hadn’t included her secret security check, carried by each agent, which gave SOE contacts back in Britain absolute confirmation the wireless operator was transmitting freely. Before leaving for a mission, each agent was assigned both a bluff check and a true check, which he or she had to insert into every message. These took the form of spelling mistakes or secret signals, agreed on with SOE, to show the sender had been captured.
All right, stay calm, Maggie thought as fear prickled up her spine. Let’s look at this logically. She could see four explanations for the oddities of Erica Calvert’s message.
One: The message had been transmitted by someone else in Erica’s network, but on Calvert’s set—and had left off the security code.
Two: Calvert was on the run and operating in difficult circumstances, which changed her fist, and she didn’t have time for the security code.
Then, three: Calvert had been captured. She was operating under German control and so had deliberately omitted the security code to alert SOE she’d been compromised.
And there was four—the worst-case scenario: Calvert was dead and the Germans were using her radio and codes with impunity.
When Maggie went to the overflowing file cabinet and looked up Calvert’s former messages, she found not only that Calvert had sent more than a dozen near-perfect ones since arriving in France, but also that she’d never forgotten her security check before. Not once. Damn, Maggie swore. What’s going on over there, Agent Calvert? Tout va bien?
There was the click of heels on the scratched parquet floor, and then a woman’s sweet, breathy voice inflected with a Welsh accent. “Excuse me? Miss Hope?”
Maggie slipped Calvert’s message into a manila folder, then looked up, into the eyes of a petite, curly-haired brunette named Bronwyn Parry, kitted out in an ATS uniform. A gap between her two front teeth and a sprinkling of freckles across her nose only added to her charm. Bronwyn had been one of Maggie’s best students at the SOE paramilitary training camp, near the town of Arisaig on the western coast of Scotland; she’d excelled at jujitsu, Fairbairn-Sykes knife fighting, and detonating explosives. Maggie had always liked Brynn.
“Just Maggie is fine now. How did the interview go?” Bronwyn had finished interviewing with Miss Lynd, one of the final hurdles before being sent to Beaulieu, the “Finishing School” for all SOE agents.
“It went well,” the young woman replied in her broad Cardiff accent, “but I don’t have a place to stay in London.” Her usually open face was troubled. “All these posh girls can book a room at Claridge’s or stay at Daddy’s pied-à-terre.” She rolled her eyes. “Meanwhile, the rest of us have to scrum for a place. . . .”
Maggie nodded. She knew firsthand how SOE was a curious cross section of social class and privilege.
Brynn shrugged. “And Miss Lynd insists I come in again tomorrow—for yet another interview.”
“I wish I could help you, Brynn,” Maggie offered with sincerity. “I’d ask you to stay with me, but my own flat was smashed in a raid—I’m bunking with friends myself.”
Brynn opened her handbag and pulled out a Woodbine cigarette and enamel lighter. She stuck the cigarette between her lips, lit it, and inhaled. “What should I do, sleep on a bench in Regent’s Park?” She puffed out a series of blue smoke rings.
“Well, that option might prove a bit nippy. Alas, SOE doesn’t provide temporary lodging—but here’s a place to try.” Maggie rummaged through the left-hand desk drawer, through an old bottle of clear nail polish for stocking runs, two rationed sugar cubes saved in an envelope, and a battered box of paper clips, until she found a business card: THE CASTLE HOTEL FOR WOMEN: Temporary Lodging for Ladies and the address in heavy black ink.
She handed it to Brynn. “You can call from here to see if there are any vacancies for tonight. Miss Lynd tells me a number of SOE interviewees have stayed there. Here, use this phone,” she said, pushing a green one toward the Welsh girl.
As Brynn came around the desk, they both heard a bellow. “Meggie!” a gruff male voice boomed from behind a thick wooden office door. “Meggie!”
Maggie sighed, then picked up Calvert’s file and rose. She walked the strip of threadbare carpet through the dim passageway, then pushed at the half-closed office door.
“It’s Maggie, sir,” she reminded him gently. Although the men in the office were referred to by their rank and wore uniforms, the women were called by their first names and expected to dress in civilian clothes.
Colonel Harry Gaskell was in his late forties, a short, rotund man with yellow hair and a fleshy, shining face. The beginnings of rosacea pinked his nose and cheeks. Although he’d served in the British Army’s Intelligence Corps as a doctor at the outbreak of the war, he’d been evacuated from Dunkirk and stayed in Britain. What concerned Maggie most was he had no firsthand knowledge of, or training in, guerrilla warfare, despite the fact he was in charge of F-Section.
Gaskell blinked pale eyes. “Meeting’s at five-thirty. We’ll jolly well need tea, and some of those oatmeal biscuits Miss Cooper made—hard as rocks, but if you dunk them, they’re not so bad.”
“Colonel—” Maggie began, handing him Erica Calvert’s file. Gaskell accepted it with a brisk movement, then flicked his eyes over the document and Maggie’s notes. He handed it back to her. “Jolly good job, young lady.”
“No,” Maggie persisted, “I believe something’s wrong, sir.”
“There’s only one explanation for Miss Calvert’s mistakes—carelessness,” the Colonel admonished. “The next time the girl’s schedule comes up, tell her she’s forgotten her security check. And remind her to be more vigilant!” He chortled. “Give that girl a rap on the knuckles!”
Maggie braced her shoulders. “Colonel Gaskell, Erica Calvert didn’t only forget the security check. Her fist was also out of character—unusually hesitant, not her style at all. I don’t like to be negative, but I believe it’s possible she’s been captured and her radio’s now in the hands of the Germans.”
Outside the window, she could see cars passing on Baker Street dusted by a light snow shower. The side of one red-brick building was painted with the advertisement take bovril to resist flu. There was the screech of brakes, a loud crash, and then a torrent of swearing as one car hit another on the slippery pavement.
“Fiddlesticks, Meggie! Er, Maggie. When you hear hooves, think horses, not unicorns! You’re doing jolly good work here and I know you’re concerned about the agents in the field, my dear, but let’s not let drama override duty, yes?”
As she turned and stalked away, Gaskell called after her: “And don’t let the tea steep too long this time!” Maggie could easily make out his grumbled complaint, “Damn Yanks . . .”
Gritting her teeth, Maggie put the file back in her desk drawer, then braved the frigid corridor to the dingy kitchenette to put the kettle on.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Didn't want to put it down! The Maggie Hope series just gets better and better!
Fun reads and interesting about the war.
Gets a little weird towards the end, her personality seems very different in this book and the last few chapters seem like their written by someone else almost. Not the usual feel for Maggie Hope or her friends. Left me feeling a bit disappointed.
Steeped in suspense and danger, this hunt for a serial killer in wartime London leaves the reader breathless. Susan Elia MacNeal is a master storyteller. "The Queen's Accomplice" is a wonderful addition to her Maggie Hope spy/mystery series.
The Queen’s Accomplice by Susan Elia Macneal is the ninth book in A Maggie Hope Mystery series. Maggie Hope is temporarily working in the SOE offices while waiting for her half-sister, Elise Hess to arrive from Germany (thanks to Prime Minister Winston Churchill). But London is a dangerous place for young women. A killer is targeting women who are coming to London to be SOE and ATS agents. The killer is reconstructing the crimes of Jack the Ripper. This culprit is using the blackouts to his advantage. The press dubs him the “Blackout Beast”. Maggie is recruited by MI-5 for a team to catch this killer. Maggie will need to be careful. Jack the Ripper’s last victim looked very similar to Maggie. Will they be able to catch this offender before he claims Maggie as his next victim? The Queen’s Accomplice is well-written and interesting to read. There is, though, a lot going on in this novel. I only summarized the mystery portion of the story. There are several side stories. Elise Hess in Germany, Clara Hess (Maggie’s mother) is still on the loose in London, Maggie’s father, Edmund is in the hospital, the training of two new agents for a covert mission to France, Chuck’s home blowing up, Max Thompson’s interest in Maggie, and Maggie’s home (that she inherited from her grandmother) has been fixed and she can now move in. It is hard to keep track of all the characters and the various scenarios. I give The Queen’s Accomplice 4 out of 5 stars (I liked it). I enjoyed The Queen’s Accomplice more than Mrs. Roosevelt’s Confidante. I did find a few things unbelievable. Maggie getting favors from the Queen of England and the Prime Minister just does not seem realistic. The mystery was not puzzling. The identity of the “Blackout Beast” was obvious as well as how he controlled the victims. I will be reading the next book in A Maggie Hope Mystery series. I am curious to see what happens next (Maggie is heading to France).
While not my favorite of the series, any visit with Maggie Hope and these well researched stories is welcome. A Ripper-esque serial killer is stalking young career women in war torn London, leaving the Yard wondering how many other deaths blamed on the Blitz could have been the work of a murderer. Maggie is essentially loaned out to the local investigators and there is quite a bit of detail of both the gruesome manner in which the young women are found and the more interesting advent of the forensic sciences. There are multiple storylines running as well, with hops to Maggie's half sister in Germany and her old friend Sarah, who is training for a mission of her own. I always enjoy the wonderful attention to historical detail (the Queen eats margarine too!) but could have done with a little less detail in the victim department. There is definitely another title in the works, this ends very quickly and there was a preview for the continuation in the back. Looking forward to it.
In Susan Macneal's THE QUEEN'S ACCOMPLICE, "we women have to stick together" with the courage to face evil and to ask for the help of other good women and men. Misogyny and fascism are they evil or a sickness? The need to stand strong and work together for good does seem to resonate with the times, perhaps with all times. Riveting action had me caught from the start, and amazed at the stamina of the amazing Maggie Hope . . . not even a minute’s rest? Well, “there is a war on.” I usually read series in order, but started this and couldn’t put it down. Little hints to past events increased my determination go back to the earlier books to remedy my out-of-order reading, and I'm eager for THE PARIS SPY -- next August? Lesson: Trust one’s gut and don’t be afraid to be rude. Personal parallel: Hand recently bitten by my neighbor’s cranky dog . . . healed and forgiven, but I’ve learned to be wary as has Maggie. Shared Theology: “Aware there are mysteries . . . traditional morals . . . because . . .they help me live a better life and it’s the right thing to do.”
Not my favorite of the Maggie Hope books. It seemed like there were so many different story lines trying to be followed at the same time. I still enjoyed the book and am definitely a fan of Maggie and her friends. But this one seemed to be all over the place. And left me hanging - so I'll be waiting anxiously for the next book
I’ve been anticipating the release of this book, “The Queen’s Accomplice” for a very long time. I’m happy to report that it actually surpasses how excellent I thought it would be! Ms. MacNeal has created a wonderful heroine in Maggie Hope. She continues to develop her character into a strong woman. She is asking for equal pay, pensions and death benefits for SOE women agents, a problem relevant even today. There is a person, “The Blackout Beast” that is killing young SOE women in a way consistent with Jack the Ripper. How Maggie along with a DCI from Scotland Yard pursues him is the biggest part of the book. This time period (WWII) has fascinated me for a long time. Ms. MacNeal has thoroughly researched the time period down to what they have to eat. The food sounds highly unpalatable. I mean, lamb cutlets made from mutton puree? Makes me cringe just thinking about it. She continues to develop some of her other characters as well, like Sarah and Hugh, along with some new characters. I highly recommend this book and series! Now I have to wait for the next installment, “The Paris Spy”. The wait might seem like forever! Is there a publication date so I can put it on my countdown calendar?
This was my second Maggie Hope book and I thoroughly enjoyed it! This one had the war in the background and mostly concentrated on London after the blitz. The SOE was still gearing up to send spies into France and Maggie's stepsister was still trying to get out of a concentration camp. However most of the action took place in London where there was a copy cat Jack the Ripper who was taking out newbie SOE wanna be agents who were in town for interviews. Yes,he gets caught and he is a little shrimp of a man who is mad because women are taking men's jobs. LOSER!! There is a lot of action, a lot of sexism (men thinking they are far superior than women) and one arse who is getting information from Maggie Hope who could save several SOE agents and he decides not to listen to her and tells her to "get him some tea". I mean any monkey could hear her information and realize they have an agent in trouble. The story ends with Maggie on her way to try and save this agent in France (backed by the Queen - she even helps drive her there herself), so I am definitely anxious to find out how that goes. Anyways, I really, really like this series and will definitely be reading anymore of these books that come out in the future. One of the review I read says that there will be a 7, 8 and 9. I'm ready for them, bring them on! Huge thanks to Random House and to Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest review. An awesome series that any spy fan or WWII fan would love!
We are back with our Maggie Hope, and in war torn London, and a modern day Jack the Ripper is imitating the original Jack’s crimes, only this time he is focusing in on women who work at the SOE, and making it personal for Maggie. Worse she knows some of these woman, and goes to work helping Scotland Yard, and trying to bring the man dubbed the “Blackout Beast” to justice, will she survive. Maggie is reunited with the princesses and has tea and dinner with the Queen at Buckingham Palace, and we wish we were there to dine. The Queen is still in Maggie’s debt and gives her a card to be able to get to her immediately if need be. We are also with Maggie’s half sister Elise Hess who is being held as a prisoner in Ravensbruck Concentration Camp, and we wonder if she will survive such horrible happens, and will she and Maggie ever have their reunion. Once the first page was turned I was hooked again and back in Maggie’s world, don’t miss this next addition in this series, you won’t be disappointed. I received this book through Net Galley and Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, and was not required to give a positive review.