Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Queen's Accomplice by Susan Elia MacNeal

Susan Elia MacNeal’s Maggie Hope mystery series is a favorite on Mystery Playground and you can read a review of the last book in the series, Mrs. Roosevelt’s Confidant, here. Today Kerry Hammond is going to tell us about the latest book featuring this daring WWII code breaker.

The Queen’s Accomplice by Susan Elia MacNeal releases in Trade Paperback from Bantam on October 4. It is book six in the series to feature the intelligent, feisty, red-headed code breaker Maggie Hope. MacNeal’s last book in the series hit the New York Times bestseller list and this is one of my favorite historical mystery series. I just had to see what Maggie was up to and how things continued from where we left off after book five.

In this latest installment, it’s 1942 and Maggie’s job with Britain’s Special Operations Executive (SOE) has taken her back to London. During her career with this top secret organization—sometimes known as “the Baker Street Irregulars” due to the street where its headquarters can be found—she has cracked codes, gone behind enemy lines and risked her life. This time, though, Maggie is recruited by the Metropolitan Police to help them with an investigation.

Women are disappearing around the city, women who have traveled to London for an interview with SOE. The first body has been found in Regent’s Park, killed in the exact same way as Jack the Ripper’s first victim. Next to the body is a note painted on a brick wall that says “JACK IS BACK.” The police have started referring to the killer as “The Blackout Beast,” and they need Maggie’s help to catch him before he continues to duplicate the Ripper’s murderous rampage.

A side issue that threads through the story is Maggie’s frustration at the disparity of treatment between men and women who are both fighting the war effort. Women who serve their country earn a fraction of the pay and none of the benefits of service that the men receive. What’s worse, a woman caught behind enemy lines can be executed as a spy because women aren't afforded the same legal protection per the Geneva Convention.

This book revolves around the hunt for The Blackout Beast, with bits and pieces thrown in relating to Maggie’s previous assignment and her family’s secrets. Readers who follow the series will be anxious to read book seven, most likely due out in 2017, to find out more. The ending of this book places Maggie in a position to delve deeper into these issues and go down yet another dangerous path.

These stories are entertaining, but also educational. All you need to do is read the long list of books that the author has consulted as she crafts each story. The research comes across the pages through the descriptions and portrayal of events. The reader absorbs this knowledge without even realizing it, but rather enjoys being told a clever fictional story.

This is one series that I would recommend you start from the beginning. The books each stand on their own as an individual story, but there are things you find out about Maggie and her family that are best learned as you go. You can still jump into the middle, but you will find a few spoilers and lose the shock effect of finding these things out as you go.

This book was provided to Mystery Playground by the publisher. The review is fair and independent.

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