Review: Mother Daughter Traitor Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal

Big big big fan of Susan Elia MacNeal here! I have loved her Maggie Hope series over the years and when I saw this one was coming out, I actually thought it was maybe a novella or something tied to the Maggie Hope series. If you are familiar with the Maggie Hope books, then you will know that spying and familial connections play a big role. So just based on the title I thought surely this book would tie into the Maggie books some how. However, it’s actually a stand alone book! No connection to the Maggie books.

I I know that for some authors it’s hard to branch out into a world of standalone books. Authors get to be ‘known’ for a character, or series etc and next thing you know they have become pigeon holed. I think what works for this one is MacNeal sticks to familiar territory. She knows her history and always does such a great job developing the historical context. While this book wasn’t a Maggie book, I felt connected to the time period and setting in the same way that I would with one of her series books.

I love this book for new fans of MacNeal. The Maggie books are about 10 books into the series and sometimes it can be intimidating to go back and read the whole series in order to get caught up before the next release comes out. This book gives interested and new readers the chance to explore MacNeal’s writing and style without having to go back and read a whole series. It is a great standalone novel and should not be missed!


A mother and daughter find the courage to go undercover after stumbling upon a Nazi cell in Los Angeles during the early days of World War II–a tantalizing novel from the New York Timesbestselling author of the Maggie Hope series 

“A stirring standalone thriller . . . Susan Elia MacNeal’s page-turning prose is as entertaining as ever–I was riveted from beginning to end.”–Kate Quinn, author of The Alice Network

June 1940. France has fallen to the Nazis, and Britain may be next–but to many Americans, the war is something happening “over there.” Veronica Grace has just graduated from college; she and her mother, Violet, are looking for a fresh start in sunny Los Angeles. After a blunder cost her a prestigious career opportunity in New York, Veronica is relieved to take a typing job in L.A.–only to realize that she’s working for one of the area’s most vicious propagandists.

Overnight, Veronica is exposed to the dark underbelly of her new home, where German Nazis are recruiting Americans for their devastating campaign. After the FBI dismisses the Graces’ concerns, Veronica and Violet decide to call on an old friend, who introduces them to L.A.’s anti-Nazi spymaster.

At once, the women go undercover to gather enough information about the California Reich to take to the authorities. But as the news of Pearl Harbor ripples through the United States, and President Roosevelt declares war, the Grace women realize that the plots they’re investigating are far more sinister than they feared–and even a single misstep could cost them everything.

Inspired by the real mother-daughter spy duo who foiled Nazi plots in Los Angeles during WWII, Mother Daughter Traitor Spy is a powerful portrait of family, duty, and deception that raises timeless questions about America–and what it means to have courage in the face of terror. (Summary from Goodreads)


One of the things that makes this book so compelling is that it’s based on a real life mother/daughter spy team. I personally work with my mother and it’s been one of the best experiences of my professional career and I can’t even imagine what it would be like to share a spy job between mothers and daughters. The complexity of the mother/daughter team, Violet and Veronica, was evident in the story and I loved seeing how MacNeal played up their strengths, flaws, complexities and motives. It was a very well done character novel and I loved getting to know these two women and I especially loved how MacNeal outlined how much of the story was fiction versus real life.

MacNeal is a seasoned writer with a wonderful prose, with each novel she writes she just gets better and better. This book did no disappoint and I think many readers will find something to love within the pages. Not all the characters are likable but readers will quickly understand their motives. The book does take a little bit to set up the story, so I found the first part a little on the slower side as it built up the background, setting, and story. But once we got into the actual spying etc, it really picked up and was full steam ahead until the ending.

I especially loved that this book was set in LA. LA is such an unconventional setting for most WWII novels, but I think that’s what makes this one stand out from the others. If I was just looking at the cover of this one, I would have thought (and totally did!) ‘oh this one is going to be set in England…maybe France’. LA is just not the first place you think of when it comes to WWII spy novels so I found the setting a welcome and refreshing surprise. There is simply so much to adore in this book—-great character, a unique setting, but the star here is the historical research. I would expect nothing less from MacNeal, as her research is always top shelf. But this one really stands out as exceptional when it comes to historical research!

Book Info and Rating

Format: 336 pages, hardcover

Publication: September 20, 2022 by Bantam

ISBN: 9780593156957

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: 5 stars

Genre: historical fiction, spy novel


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