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Book Review: The Paris Spy

By (August 17, 2017) No Comment

The Paris Spy

Susan Elia MacNeal

Bantam, 2017

“This is not my war” Susan Elia MacNeal’s redoubtable heroine Maggie Hope says at one point in the new series novel, The Paris Spy, and although the moment is deadly serious – she’s verbally sparring with a silky, venomous Obersturmbannführer in occupied Paris at the height of the Second World War, and if she slips up and breaks her cover (she’s in Paris to spy, of course, for the Special Operations Executive), she knows she’ll suffer the same fate as the Erica Calvert, the SOE agent whose recent disappearance in Paris has urgent relevance to the Allies’ advancing plans for the D-Day landing in Normandy – and yet the line will likely prompt a quick smile or laugh from long-time readers of MacNeal’s series. Ever since 2012’s Mr. Churchill’s Secretary, American-born Maggie Hope has been on half a dozen adventures with a cast of endearing supporting characters (including a good many well-drawn historical figures). She has fought, scrambled, connived, and sleuthed her way through more than enough adventures in hopes of thwarting the Nazis that it most certainly is her war – she owns it as thoroughly as any character in an ongoing mystery series.

MacNeal is very skilled at doubling the weight of what’s at stake in her novels, and The Paris Spy is no exception; Maggie here is concerned not only with the disappearance of her half-sister Elise but also with Calvert’s disappearance – the one for personal reasons, the other because Calvert was a geologist whose secret mission was to gather sand and soil samples from the beaches of Normandy in order to help the Allies determine what specific kinds of ground vehicles they’ll need for the D-Day invasion. The Allies have poured a great deal of effort into convincing the Germans that if the invasion happens at all, it’ll happen at Pas de Calais; Calvert’s capture and interrogation might endanger the whole operation if the Nazis discover their real vulnerability at Normandy.

Readers who are familiar with this crackerjack series will know exactly what to expect: long before summer movie-going audiences were introduced to a certain warrior princess of Themyscira, Maggie Hope has been a Wonder Woman of a character, infinitely compassionate, infinitely capable, and infinitely interesting. The climax of The Paris Spy involves our heroine in mid-air, encountering the controls of a suddenly pilotless RAF Lockheed Hudson and doing the instinctive thing – instinctive if you’re Maggie Hope. And later, when she sights familiar shores, her excited thoughts give a quick, sharp glimpse of her nature:

“Oh!” Her heart leapt for joy; they were crossing back to England. “Hello there, Blighty!” Home. Normality. Laughing with David. Having tea and toast with Chuck. The sweet fragrance of baby Griffin’s downy head. K’s purr. These are the things that matter, she thought. Love is what matters.

The Paris Spy is constructed very much along the lines of all the earlier novels in the series, all of which are orchestrated more like chapters in a very long novel than discreet stand-alone adventures. This might form a slight discouragement to new readers who haven’t treated themselves to Mr. Churchill’s Secretary and its sequels, but it’ll form an added attraction for loyal readers – particularly because this latest novel ends with an almost unbearable cliffhanger. Those loyal fans will finish the book all the more eager for the next one – business as usual, for this series.