When I first stumbled on Maggie Hope, it was early 2012. I was one of the first people to read and review Mr Churchill’s Secretary and I fell head over heals for Maggie right then and there!
I have adored many of the books in the series thus far and I can’t believe we are on the 9th book already!
Obviously when this book came up for review, I was thrilled to be reading more about Maggie’s journey and checking in with many of my favorite characters in the series. After the last book, I had high hopes for this one as well!
London. December, 1942. As the Russian army repels German forces from Stalingrad, Maggie Hope, secret agent and spy, takes a break from the Special Operations Executive division to defuse bombs in London. But Maggie herself is like an explosion waiting to happen. Shaken by a recent case, she finds herself living more dangerously–taking more risks than usual, smoking again, drinking gin and riding a motorcycle–and the last thing she wants is to get entangled in another crime. But when she’s called upon to look into a stolen Stradivarius, one of the finest violins ever made, Maggie finds the case too alluring to resist.
Meanwhile, there’s a serial killer on the loose in London and Maggie’s skills are in demand. Little does she know that in the process of investigating this dangerous predator, she will come face to face with a new sort of evil…and discover a link between the precious violin and the murders no one could ever have expected (summary from Goodreads)
This series has been pretty solid for me with Maggie evolving from a secretary to spy to now a shadow of her former self. In some of the earlier books, Maggie took a bit of a turn for the darker side of things when it comes to how the war and her missions impacted her which I found realistic and appropriate for her character. The book prior to this one found Maggie investigating a serial killer who tried to make Maggie one of his victims and in this book we again see that effect on her character. There were times though where I felt like we had already kind of been through this with Maggie in previous books. She struggled after her missions with her moral choices and the things she saw and did for the war and her government. When Maggie gets in these funks, it’s hard for me to relate to her because she is hell bent on self destruction and we don’t really see anyone doing anything about it.
Her friends all comment on it but no one really tries to take the bull by the horns and help her other than maybe James. James resists her advances for what I can only presume are honorable intentions but we don’t ever really get to explore that in this book which was a surprise. The focus is really on Maggie struggling with her inner demons. Which ok—I’m willing to go with in this book, but I just feel like we have been here before with her to some degree.
The mystery in this one was just so-so for me. The identity of the killer was noted fairly early on which left the reader with the ‘why’ of the crime which I thought was for the most part—satisfying. Although I did hope for a little more in the way of mystery around who the killer was even if the ‘why’ was the focus.
If you have read this series then you won’t necessarily find this a spoiler, but it is a small-ish spoiler so just stop reading if you don’t want to know or skip to the next paragraph. I thought that Maggie left John Sterling behind many books ago but there is a potential for her to reconnect with him in the future and I don’t know how I feel about that. I feel like too much has happened between them and individually to Maggie herself, that I just don’t know if reconnecting with him is something I want to see happen for her. I felt like her and James were much better suited but I also understand that James was more about the job than anything else, though I just feel like John Sterling and Maggie had their time and perhaps Maggie doesn’t need a love interest at this stage? I don’t know, but either way I am looking forward to seeing how that unfolds—for better or for worse—in the next book.
Overall I don’t know I loved this book as much as I did some of the others in the series. It wasn’t bad by any means, in fact I found it to be a quick easy read that I spent an afternoon wrapped up in. I always enjoy spending time with Maggie and her friends plus the mysteries are usually fun and interesting—and the time period is ALWAYS well researched. This one in particular. I loved learning about the conscientious objectors as that was a bit about WWII that I was unfamiliar with! But for me it felt like the transition book. The Queen’s Accomplice, where we first encounter the notorious ‘Blackout Beast’ killer, marked a turning point in Maggie’s life and now that the ‘Blackout Beast’ plot has wrapped up in this book, it sounds like Maggie is going to be turning down a new path and I am excited to see where that takes her. While I might not have loved this one, it was still an important read in the larger series and for Maggie’s character. I can’t see where how things go for Maggie in America!