I fell in love with Maggie Hope long ago and watching her journey through these last 10 books has been so fun as a reader. We have seen her go from nervous secretary, to spy, through PTSD, and heartache. As we enter the 10th book in the series ,she is in many ways unrecognizable from the first book.
As a reader you really get a sense of how the war changed her character and I think that’s what really makes this series shine. I haven’t always loved the direction that Maggie’s character has taken or choices that she has made but for me that’s what makes her so real and relatable. You don’t have to love her choices or agree with them but you learn to live with them in the same way that her character must.
I was a little nervous going into this book though because we see the reappearance of one time beau, John Sterling. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. In the previous books I felt like John was charming and wonderful—-up until he wasn’t. Then I was like ‘Maggie girl kick his ass to the curb!’ and now suddenly he’s making a reappearance in her life and I hoped that he had undergone some changes between the books.
Los Angeles, 1943. As the Allies beat back the Nazis in the Mediterranean and the United States military slowly closes in on Tokyo, Walt Disney cranks out wartime propaganda and the Cocoanut Grove is alive with jazz and swing each night. But behind this sunny façade lies a darker reality. Somewhere in the lush foothills of Hollywood, a woman floats, lifeless, in the pool of one of California’s trendiest hotels. When American-born secret agent and British spy Maggie Hope learns that this woman was engaged to her old flame, John Sterling, and that he suspects her death was no accident, intuition tells her he’s right. Leaving London under siege—not to mention flying thousands of miles—is a lot to ask. But John was once the love of Maggie’s life . . . and she won’t say no.
Maggie is shocked to find Los Angeles as divided as Europe itself—the Zoot Suit Riots loom large and the Ku Klux Klan casts a long shadow. As she marvels at the hatred in her home country, she can’t help but wonder what it will be like to see her lost love once again. But there is little time to dwell on memories once she starts digging into the case. As she traces a web of deception from the infamous Garden of Allah to the iconic Carthay Theater, she discovers things aren’t always the way things appear in the movies—and the political situation in America is more complicated, and dangerous, than the newsreels would have them all believe (summary from Goodreads)
To be honest, I had forgotten that Maggie is actually an American! She has been in England so long that I have long since thought of her as a Brit and in this book we see her return to America to help her one time beau John Sterling solve a murder. It was interesting to see how as an American she was so out of touch with some of the things happening in America like racial tensions and domestic terrorism. I actually thought the author did a great job reminding readers that while WWII was raging in England and Europe, it was also changing and impacting America. I really liked the domestic terrorism part of this book too—more than I was anticipating. MacNeal added a lot of history on the city of Los Angeles and Hollywood during this particular time in history that I knew nothing about and found equal parts shocking and interesting. This book left me wanting to know more about Los Angeles during this time.
The only thing I felt that was a little distracting for me as a reader was the song titles and some of the little details that I think were meant to add authenticity but for me slowed things down. There would be lines like ‘_________ song was playing on the radio’ or ‘The sound track from Oklahoma filled the car’ and I would have no knowledge of who or what those songs were and then I would be down a rabbit hole about WWII music. I understand that it was meant to set a mood or tone in a scene but for me it just felt a little distracting and unnecessary. But that is a personal preference. I personally feel that there are other ways to set the tone of a scene than music but again that’s just personal preference and in the grand scheme of things wasn’t a huge deal.
Now for the big question, how did I feel about Maggie and John’s reconnection. I don’t want to put any spoilers out there so obviously you will need to read and judge for yourself. For me I felt ok with the direction that their characters were going. I think enough time has passed between books that I think readers will feel open to John making a reappearance in Maggie’s life. Readers will see change and evolution between them both which I think also translates into their greater relationship. If you haven’t read the earlier Maggie books, I think you will still feel connected and invested in this aspect of the story. Clearly they have a history but the focus is on the ‘now’ versus the past so I think new readers will be able to read and enjoy this book even 10 books in.
Bottom line—I adore Maggie. This was a great read and I loved the history and setting of this book. It was a nice change from war torn Europe and I am eager to see how things progress in future books. If you love historical mysteries this is another excellent series that is always a top recommendation from me to historical mystery fans!
Book Info and Rating
Format 368 pages, Hardcover
Expected publicationJuly 6, 2021 by Bantam
ISBN9780593156926 (ISBN10: 0593156927)
Free review copy provided by publisher, Bantam Books, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.
Rating: 4.5 stars
Genre: historical mystery