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by Susan Elia MacNeal
Bantam, October 2012
355 pages
ISBN: 0553593625

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Returning with her second Maggie Hope mystery, Susan Elia Macneal shines in her second novel, a more intimate mystery based on the childhood of Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret. Many of the favorite characters from the first novel reappear in this second in a series, including Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

What the author does so well is incorporate research about the Second World War and mixes it into a very cozy-like mystery of wartime in Britain. All of the threats of Nazis and London bombings remain, but they are personalized through the character of Maggie and her friends, who just happen to be in some of the most sensitive spots of the government, including No 10 Downing Street, Bletchley Park, and now, among the royals at Windsor Castle.

While many mystery novels place the royal family on a pedestal, in PRINCESS ELIZABETH'S SPY, the royals are presented in a very human way, living during wartime in a drafty castle that the nanny equates to living in a cold, dark museum. In order to protect the young heir to the throne, Princess Elizabeth, the story's spy-in-training Maggie Hope has been transferred from No 10 Downing Street to Windsor Castle under the guise of being the young princess's math tutor.

There is also the incorporation of codes, the enigma machine, and Bletchley Park (the wartime site of code-breaking). Maggie even teaches her young student some simple codes (for fun) that later come in handy, of course. There's danger lurking everywhere in wartime, and it's no surprise that there is a turncoat or two hanging around the castle.

It all turns into a wild plot near the Christmas holiday, when the castle is loaded with dignitaries, and a seasonal pantomime is occupying the attention of the children. While the storyline may take a far-fetched turn near the end, all in all this is a charming addition to the continuing Maggie Hope mystery series and well worth reading for fans of historical mysteries.

Christine Zibas is a freelance writer and former director of publications for a Chicago nonprofit.

Reviewed by Christine Zibas, November 2012

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