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Above Suspicion

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  1,252 Ratings  ·  138 Reviews
It is the summer of 1939. A young Oxford don, Richard Myles and his wife Frances are about to leave for their usual long vacation on the continent. At the request of a Foreign Office friend of Richard's they agree to serve as messengers to a man who has been involved in rescue work and anti-Nazi espionage, a man who now seems to have gone missing. Their qualifications? Nex ...more
Hardcover, 333 pages
Published March 15th 1998 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P (first published 1941)
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Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
I've seen Helen MacInnes vintage thrillers on library and used bookstore shelves many times over the years, but never bothered picking one up and reading it until now. I should have given her a chance earlier; this was pretty compelling reading.

Above Suspicion, published in 1941 and set in 1939, on the eve of World War II, is about a young British couple, Richard Myles, an Oxford don, and his wife Frances, who are approached by one of their friends, Peter Galt, who's been involved in anti-Nazi e
Entertaining (if terribly dated) spy novel published in 1941 but set a few years earlier.

The action begins in Oxford, England, where professor Richard Myles and his (lovely, of course) young wife Frances are asked by a friend to do a spot of espionage under cover of their annual holiday hiking jaunt. The couple are earnest and willing (if not exactly eager) to do their small part in facing down the Nazi threat that's looming over Europe.

It's standard, retro-classic spy fare from chapter two onw
Sep 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Above Suspicion is the first thriller by Helen MacInnes, an author largely forgotten about now, but once a very established and successful writer. She married Gilbert Highet, a Classics scholar, in 1932 and translated German literature with him. Like the characters in this novel, both her and her husband spoke fluent German and spent their summers travelling in Europe. Gilbert Highet also served as an MI6 British intelligence agent and his wife's novels were so realistic that her third book, "As ...more
Abigail Bok
Sep 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Time was, I was an avid reader of Helen MacInnes’s spy thrillers. I loved the moral certainties; the clever, adaptive heroes and heroines who always had an unexpected work-around for every danger; the nobility and the endurance and the happy endings.

Having not read MacInnes for at least three decades, I was glad to go back and reread Above Suspicion, her first entry in the genre, published in the heat of World War II (1941). The story is set in the summer of 1939, after Nazi Germany’s goals were
Oct 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
This 1941 mystery by "the queen of the spy novels" is a period piece in every way -- the characters, clothing, setting, social customs, etc. (For example, the two main characters do a lot of mountain climbing, while pausing frequently for cigarette breaks.) A young English couple from Oxford are asked to travel through Europe on a spy mission in the summer of 1939, just before the start of World War Two. Although the wife Frances is both intelligent and courageous, all the male characters includ ...more
Jan 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More of a 3.5 & not really my sort of book. The heroic couple was very true to life & the snapshot of Europe just prior to WWII was really interesting, though. This is an atmosphere read although there's plenty of action toward the end. Definitely a well written spy thriller of the old school like John le Carré.
Susan in Perthshire
Nov 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
I read this book while on holiday on the west coast of Scotland in November. It was the weekend after the terrorist atrocities in Paris, and the parallels between the events and thoughts and fears described in the book - and that terrible event in Paris resonated for me in a way that might not happened if I had read it at a different time. The book is set in 1939- immediately prior to the UK going to war with Germany and it was written in 1942, so there is a realism and authenticity which pervad ...more
Barb in Maryland
Oh wow!
Set in the summer of 1939 (and published in 1941), the story's sense of impending doom really ratchets up the suspense. This falls into the 'amateurs recruited for a tricky job' subset of thrillers (as opposed to the 'seasoned agent doing a tricky job' subset). Our amateurs are an English couple: Richard Myles, an Oxford professor, and Frances, his lovely wife. Their cover is just being themselves on their annual summer hiking/sight-seeing vacation in Europe. And, yes, it does help that
The first of MacInnes's 18 or so novels with European settings which move from the Nazi era and the dawn of WWII, through the rise of Communism and the Cold War.

MacInnes's writing is rich with sensory details: the feel of rough felt hats, the cool, clear mountain air, the bruised and aching feet from hiking in the Alps, the smell of burning wool carpet singed by candle flame, the grime on an old book in a dusty bookstore. She knows the geography she describes - Austria, Germany,Paris, Oxford. Yo
Jan 24, 2018 rated it liked it
ABOVE SUSPICION. (1939). Helen MacInnes. ***.
This was MacInnes’ first novel, and she went on to become one of the more popular writers of spy novels during her career. Although this novel was very good, it was up to her continuing output of espionage works to develop and maintain her presence in this genre. Ms. MacInnes is not read as much today as she used to be, but her work is well worth picking up. She was a master at developing the surroundings in which her characters acted, and helped fir
I'm inclined to describe this as a vintage thriller, very much a blast from the past. On the eve of the second world war, an English couple, Frances and Richard Myles are asked to travel to Europe. Their mission is to retrieve information about a fellow Englishman who is running a spy network. There is a question as to whether the organisation has perhaps been compromised. It becomes a cloak and dagger operation. Frances and Richard are amateurs but are obliged to pit their wits against some ver ...more
Dec 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
I picked this up on the giveaway pile at the library. I knew someone years ago who loved helen machines and i figured, it's free, i'll try it. I LOVED this book. It's quirky and period, but moves really quickly and it stays with you after you're done. The characters are interesting and the plot rolls right along and her writing and descriptions are very good. This is her first novel, and it's a sort of suspense thriller but really what it is, is kind of a portrait of the world after the Nazis ha ...more
Michael Wallace
Jan 28, 2012 rated it liked it
An interesting early spy novel, published in 1941 and taking place in 1939 just before the war started. A young British couple are recruited to make contact with a missing spy while taking their usual summer vacation on the continent. The pacing is occasionally clunky and there are other stylistic choices that show their age, but I found it fascinating to read what seems to be a historical thriller but was written in the thick of the action, so to speak.
Ian Brydon
Aug 13, 2017 rated it it was ok
I am always intrigued to see how literary tastes develop and change. ‘Above Suspicion’, published in 1941 and set in the summer of 1939 in the final few months before the outbreak of the Second World War, was Helen MacInnes’s first novel. It was very well received, spawning a film starring Joan Crawford and Fred MacMurray, and launched her on a successful career writing fast paced spy thrillers with female protagonists. MacInnes was later dubbed by critics as the ‘Queen of Spy Fiction’.

It is fai
Jun 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spies
I read a lot of Helen MacInnes in my teens, but I'd missed this, her first novel. On the eve of the Second World War, an Oxford don and his wife are asked to take part in a little low-risk espionage during their annual summer holiday in Europe. Needless to say, it doesn't turn out to be that little, or that low-risk.

I especially liked the glimpse of 1939 Europe and the convincing locations, obviously described from experience. Wikipedia tells me that the holidaying couple are based on MacInnes
Jim Mullin
Sep 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author wrote this book in the early forties uniquely portraying the evil effect the Nazi Germany secret police were able to maintain throughout western Europe prior to the German invasions The story line itself is quite suspenseful and an excellent read.
Casee Marie
Jan 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In 1939, when Oxford professor Richard Myles and his wife Frances receive a visit from their good friend Peter Galt, they find themselves faced with a surprising request. They are planning their annual trip abroad and Peter asks them to first visit Paris where they’ll meet a man – an agent. Their journey will continue as their mystery Englishman in Paris dictates, leading them through Europe and encounters with a series of agents until they reach one man whose status has become unknown to the or ...more
Monique Snyman
Mar 26, 2013 rated it liked it
Set in 1939, Richard and Frances Myles are preparing for their annual European summer vacation. However, they are unexpectedly visited at Oxford College by Peter Galt, an old friend, who requests a favour… Their mission is to go to Paris and meet a man at a specific place who will give them details for the next meeting point. An ordinary holiday turns into an extraordinary tale where a pre-war Europe is suspicious of everyone and everything and Richard and Francis Myles quickly realises it as th ...more
Jeff Raymond
For as much as I enjoy spy movies and some modern spy books, I am woefully underread on the classics of the genre. I've seen a ton of Bond movies, but never read the Broccoli books. And when Above Suspicion landed on my doorstep last week, I learned that "the queen of spy-story writers" was not only someone I had never heard of, but was responsible for some important fiction to the genre. I suppose I should just dive in from there, right?

I'll say this much, first: I got to read the reissued vers
Jun 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery, suspense
Above Suspicion is MacInnes’ first novel. Set just before World War II, it begins when Frances and Richard Myles’ old friend stops in at his office to ask if the couple would combine their vacation with a very simple job: Track down an agent gone silent and find out if he’s still alive. It should not be too risky: The couple often takes vacations in Europe anyway, and they are not agents and therefore shouldn’t be marked. They’re just innocently asking a few innocuous questions, here an there. T ...more
Aug 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: oldies
In the summer of 1939, Oxford don Richard Myles and his wife Frances are trying to decide whether to give up their usual summer vacation hiking in the Alps because of the threatening war conditions when they are visited by an old friend who asks a special favor of them. A source of information to British Intelligence has apparently had a broken link in its chain and needs to be investigated. The Myles’ friend says that they would be “above suspicion” because they were well known in the area fro ...more
Joanne Moyer
Helen MacInnes has long been considered one of the best writers of spy~adventure~thriller books and after a reread of Above Suspicion, I find that to still be true. Today's readers may find her books 'dated' or 'vintage', but knowing that Ms MacInnes' books were written during or just after the events depicted, that she had personal knowledge of the areas the events and the time in which they were written and that her husband was a member of Britian's MI6, I prefer to think of them as 'authentic ...more
Jul 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spies, world-war-ii
This is a Helen MacInnes book that I have held onto over the years to re-read.

Set in Europe before WWII but when the Nazis are already in power in Germany, it tells the story of an English couple who are asked to take on a mission for the secret service because since they are not professional spies they won't already be known by the enemy.

It was originally written in 1941, so things that are now seen as retro were probably how things were really done then. For example, the couple makes first con
May 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
I dipped into my early mystery reading with a reread of MacInnes's spy novel. Dated? Yes! But, still a good read with a couple of believable protagonists. Prewar stirrings, Nazis, intrigue, Germans falling for Hitler's rhetoric -- all of it in one package with an Oxford academic and his wife working to find a missing spy because, as a couple traveling during the summer as per their usual habit, they would be "above suspicion" and perhaps more successful than the professionals had been. A fun rid ...more
Jan 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Helen MacInnes was quite a Cold warrior in her day, but her political views don't get in the way of my enjoyment of these books. This, the best and most suspenseful of them all, is one of her earliest. It has a WWII setting; quite a thrilling chase through Germany as a young, untrained British couple take on a difficult espionage assignment.

Interestingly, most of the protagonists in her books (not this one) are men. We see the action through their perspectives, including their views on women.

Jun 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
Not my most favorite MacInnes novel, but I love the way she creates the feel of Nazi terror. It is amazing how people just let themselves be overcome by the Nazi regime. It happened slowly and pretty soon, they were convinced that the Nazi leaders were right or at the very least that it wasn't worth putting up a fight. That hidden terror is woven through the novel and at times felt very palpable. This was a re-read and it is amazing how differently I see the novel now.
Nick Duretta
Jun 26, 2010 rated it liked it
Standard, somewhat cliche spy saga taking place in 1939 Germany. Interesting from today's perspective knowing what we know now. Actually, MacInnes' spot-on assessment of the situation in Nazi Germany at the time was astounding, given that U.S. involvement in the war was two years' away. The story moves along like a Hitchcock thriller, but is predictable for all that.
Jeff Dickison
Mar 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Good MacInnes novel of young English couple being sent into Germany in 1939 to see about the welfare of an English spy. There they get to experience the Nazi way of life up close and personal. Written in 1941, this gives a good view of how the English felt about Germany at that time. Recommended to both spy fans and historical fans.
Jerry Ward
Feb 07, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I think I would have given a higher rating in 1941 when it was written. I think that the intervening years has made me a bit more demanding of credulousness and good character development. Such weaknesses would have been forgiven—or unnoticed—as long as there was action. And there was action!
Danielle McClellan
This was a really fun vintage spy novel set between the wars with a smart, witty Oxford couple that finds themselves slightly over their heads. I enjoyed it and also enjoyed the snapshot of the historical & political moment of the summer of 1939 just before England went to war.
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Retro Reads: Above Suspicion 54 56 Nov 03, 2017 12:17PM  
Classic Trash: Above Suspicion: Finished (Spoilers) 8 6 Sep 26, 2013 11:25AM  
Classic Trash: Above Suspicion: In Progress (No Spoilers Please) 4 5 Sep 11, 2013 11:25AM  
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Helen MacInnes was a Scottish-American author of espionage novels. She graduated from the University of Glasgow in Scotland in 1928 with a degree in French and German. A librarian, she married Professor Gilbert Highet in 1932 and moved with her husband to New York in 1937 so he could teach classics at Columbia University. She wrote her first novel, Above Suspicion, in 1939. She wrote many bestsell ...more
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