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jenn

Murder by Death

I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.

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

Mr. Churchill's Secretary - Susan Elia MacNeal

Mr. Churchill's Secretary is the story of English-born but US-bred Maggie Hope.  She's returned to London in the very early days of WWII to sell her inheritance: her grandmother's house.  When it doesn't sell, she decides to stay in London to live, forgoing her post graduate studies at MIT to do her part in the war effort against Hitler.  In spite of her brilliance in mathematics, she's hired on only as a typist, but as a typist for Winston Churchill himself, putting her in the direct path of the most classified information of the day.

 

While I was immediately sucked into the early-WWII-London setting, the story itself started off slow for me.  The immediate crime's (it takes place in the Prologue) ties to the rest of the story aren't really apparent for fully the first half of the book.  I knew there was a link, I just didn't have the slightest hint about what the link was.

 

I like Maggie; she's a rather even-keeled character, neither dull nor outrageous.  She's meant to be a brilliant mathematician, but this brilliance isn't overt in any way.  The people who surround her are mostly three-dimensional, well thought-out, and interesting.  A couple could have been better fleshed out, but as they played minor roles in the overall story, their lack of depth is a trivial thing.

 

As I've already mentioned, I was completely engrossed in the setting; WWII London right before and during the bombings.  I won't go so far as to say I could smell the smoke and feel the grit, but I was definitely caught up in the atmosphere and the tension of the time that the author tried to convey through her writing.  One particular scene focussing on the anti-Semitic opinions of the minority made me sick to my stomach and made me thankful for an upbringing that didn't include exposure to gross generalisations about an entire people, hateful or otherwise.

 

About half-way through the book, the pacing picked up.  Things started happening, Maggie finally starts playing with codes, clues start coming together.  At this point I was unable to put the book down, I wanted to find out what happened next.  The author spent the first half of this book setting up a complex plot line and mystery and the second half had everything coming together rather all in a rush.

 

I really enjoyed this book, and I'm ordering the next one right away.  This time period is the one I most enjoy reading about and I'm eager to find out what happens next.