THE PRIME MINISTER’S SECRET AGENT by Susan Elia MacNeal

Prime MinisterTHE PRIME MINISTER’S SECRET AGENT
Susan Elia MacNeal
July 2014
Bantam

After a harrowing escape from Nazi Berlin in HIS MAJESTY’S HOPE, THE PRIME MINISTER’S SECRET AGENT finds Maggie Hope now teaching at the same school she once attended, training agents to go out into the field. Maggie is suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from her experiences overseas, and having a difficult time fighting the ‘black dog’ of depression; the isolation of the training island and the hard exercise are what Maggie feels she needs rather than heading back into the field. But on a weekend trip to visit her friend Sarah the ballet dancer, Maggie stumbles onto a national secret regarding biohazardous weapons—and while Maggie jumps in to unravel the truth behind the weapons, the life of her friend hangs in the balance. Meanwhile, the American intelligence community is overlooking signs that a Japanese attack on their assets in Hawaii is heading their way, and Maggie’s mother—the Nazi spy Clara Hess—is quickly coming up on her execution date.

Maggie Hope has always been plucky and resourceful in the past, and while this novel takes her to some darker places, I love the realism of Maggie’s journey. In THE PRIME MINISTER’S SECRET AGENT Maggie really becomes a professional agent; losing her soft edges, yet without losing the heart that makes her so appealing as a protagonist. No one could do what Maggie has done without a few scars, both physical and emotional, and her struggles with PTSD are a natural reaction to the trauma she experienced in the previous book. In fact, I love what MacNeal has done with the psychology in this book overall—both with Maggie and with her mother Clara Hess—I found the portrayals to be incredibly realistic. I don’t want to give too much away, but I thought Clara Hess’s storyline really added true depth and background to a sinister character. (Although it still doesn’t make me like her.)

MacNeal’s books always prove themselves to be incredibly well-researched, yet still have great flow and pacing—I read it in one sitting because I couldn’t put it down. She cleverly wove the story of the American intelligence drama leading up to Pearl Harbor together with Maggie’s story—setting America up to finally join forces with Britain for the next novel. The interagency and interservice fighting dramatically portrayed here is a story I know all too well, having been in the military myself, and MacNeal nailed it. Her portrayal of life during WWII has an authenticity and soul that I often find lacking in books set during this time period, and I think this is where her extensive research really shines through. MacNeal gives you all the flavor without bogging down the story. This series has become a favorite of mine—Maggie and her band of friends are infinitely sympathetic characters, whose adventures I never tire of taking part in.
Erica Ruth Neubauer