Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Paris Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal: Reading Room Review

The Paris Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal is #7 in the Maggie Hope Mystery series set during WWII. I have been an ardent fan of this series since the beginning, and I was rather surprised when I realized that we were to the seventh title already. Time really does fly when you’re having fun, or when you’re reading an amazing series. What first engaged me in this series was the absolute connection to Maggie in her surroundings, war-torn London. MacNeal had brought the feeling of walking down a bomb ravaged street in London in 1939 into sharp focus for readers. Through Maggie Hope, we see history as if it’s unfolding before us. And, here we are at book #7, and the author has never wavered from bringing the reader into the scene, immersing us into a time and place where history so affected our future.

It is now 1942, and Maggie, through her called-in favor from the Queen of England, is in Paris, which is occupied by the Germans, as is the rest of France--well, except for Vichy France, whose rule is maintained by a Nazi-collaborating Frenchman. But it is Paris, the city of lights, where Maggie awaits her documentation allowing her to enter daily life in this tightly controlled German military zone. What she finds when she does get her new identification and papers is a city covered in swastika banners and muted life. The city of lights has lost its once brilliant color and amore. Posing as an Irish young woman who has come to Paris to shop for her bridal trousseau, Maggie settles into the Ritz Hotel, where the German Luftwaffe is headquartered. Because Ireland is neutral in the War, she is granted freedom to move around as she pleases. But, of course, there is always the watchful eye of the Gestapo and whoever may be collaborating with them. “Trust no one” is advice that is given to Maggie upon her entry into Paris. Her real purpose in getting herself smuggled into this dangerous place as a spy is to find a SOE, Special Operations Executive, agent whose communications have gone rather odd of late. Also, Maggie is in pursuit of her half-sister, who was last seen in Paris when she escaped from the safety of the SOE handlers. 

The characters include some with whom we are familiar from earlier books, and it certainly is to the reader’s advantage to have read the preceding six stories in the series, as the bonds with those characters will be stronger.  Of course, the story is so captivating that prior reading isn't essential.  There is also a whole new cast of characters, consisting of German officers and French spies and the lovely addition of Coco Chanel. Coco’s befriending of Maggie is another avenue of exploring the conditions of occupied Paris, how the fashion capitol of the world dealt with fashion and its continuation through the hardships of war. Also, the inclusion of Maggie’s friends and fellow agents, Hugh Thompson and Sarah Sanderson, who are undercover as part of the Paris ballet company, is a window into the arts in Paris at this time. The Germans may have been monsters, but their interest in the finer things of life allowed the artistic and musical talent to survive, albeit under the strict regulations and pillaging of the Nazi regime. 

On the line in these behind-the-scenes war efforts is the Allied invasion of France, keeping the location of Normandy a secret. It’s a win or lose the war move that Churchill and those working in the secret organizations of the British war-fighting machine are desperate to protect at all costs. Sacrifice has never meant more or been so great. Evil has never been more threatening to take over.  Maggie and her fellow spies know what is at stake.

This book may be my favorite yet in the Maggie Hope series, mainly because the history of Paris under Nazi rule is such a fascinating subject, and Susan Elia MacNeal spins a suspenseful, gripping story out of real people and circumstances, facing peril with their every step. There is no comfort of home or time off for the participants in this drama. Every day is a challenge to make it through alive. The story will seize you with its life and death struggles in a fight to prevent the Nazi takeover of the world. The author recreates the feelings and sacrifices of these brave spies in this powerful narrative that will make it all too real to the reader.

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review.

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