I was intrigued by the first book in this series, Mr. Churchill's Secretary. I didn't particularly like Maggie (in face she seemed to be a bit of a MaI was intrigued by the first book in this series, Mr. Churchill's Secretary. I didn't particularly like Maggie (in face she seemed to be a bit of a Mary Sue in that book, and this book reinforced my opinion of her - men instantly falling in love/lust with her; we're constantly told how unbelievably intelligent she is; it seems like she knows or is good at everything except where the plot point requires that she doesn't, though she is always quick to correct that). However, I loved the supporting characters - David, Chuck, John, etc. - and I thought Susan Elia MacNeal did fairly well with the historical characters.
Though it was obvious that the author did research, both books were rife with historical inaccuracies. I’m the sort of person that is easily bothered by something like that, particularly when a five minute google search can correct an inaccuracy. (view spoiler)[ For instance, there were no British fighters flying over Berlin in late 1940 (and it must be winter 1940 because of the Coventry raid); the earliest known flight was a reconnaissance flight in March 1941, and operations didn’t begin in earnest until 1943. What was John doing, then, flying a Spitfire over Berlin? How did he get through training in two months, anyway? The last book was late September and this is one is mid-November of 1940. (hide spoiler)]
Perhaps because of the errors, I never got a really good feeling for the time and place the novels are set in. Wartime London never really comes alive for me. Time is compressed very oddly in these stories anyway. In the first book for example, we are in June in chapter one and then must be in late September in the next, because the bombing of London has started. The readers are never advised, either through placards before the chapters or in the text itself, that there is any sort of time change (though time is signposted more clearly in PES than MCS - the Coventry raid provides context to figure out when this is supposed to be happening).
The editing is also kind of bizarre as well, though that’s been covered in other reviews, so I’ll leave it.
These things bugged me while reading both books. I thought the author was actually pretty good and that Secretary was clearly a debut novel. There was a good story there and I thought the second book would get better. I tried to turn my brain off and enjoy a fluffy read. I originally thought both books were about three star range; enjoyable, not great, may read future books sort of level.
But then, as I was progressing through the second book, I realized several plotlines were very familiar. A friend had just recommended the British TV series Foyle’s War on Netflix and I had just started watching it. The first episode deals with an older man who is married to a German immigrant. His wife is detained for possibly spying (the letter in the book and a photograph in the tv show) and dies of a heart attack while in the internment camp. His son, I think, goes to the local wealthy, powerful man in the show; Mr. Tooke goes to the King, and both are turned away. Both the son and Mr. Tooke remind the powerful man that an important person in their life is German, as well - the wealthy man’s second wife in the show and Lady Lily in the book. Both women are later killed gruesomely - decapitated by a piano wire strung between trees while out on their usual rides.
The similarities do not stop there. The Detective Chief Superintendent called to the crime scene in both the book and the show is a middle-aged widower with a son serving in the military (Foyle’s son is in the RAF and Wilson’s is in the Royal Navy). They both served in WWI and tried to offer their services for the war effort during the current war, but were turned down.
I was shocked reading it, as it was instantly recognizable to me and probably anyone that has seen the first episode of Foyle’s War. I googled it, and found that it seems the author not only did not properly attribute these borrowed plot points, she also borrowed another, even more important plot point from another TV show, down to some of the dialogue.
It may not be out and out plagiarism, but what happened here is very, very close. I can’t give this book anything more than one star as a result. I certainly won’t be purchasing any further books in the series....more
Much improved over the last few novels in this series, which had become slightly cookie-cutter. This has some of the same elements, but the story is mMuch improved over the last few novels in this series, which had become slightly cookie-cutter. This has some of the same elements, but the story is more interesting (if a little far fetched) and it doesn't read verbatim like the last book....more