The Second World War has long been fertile territory for mystery authors, but Susan Elia MacNeal’s debut novel offers an intriguing twist, imagining an American-raised Brit inside Churchill’s office. Maggie Hope has studied advanced mathematics—making her a talented code breaker—but sexist office politics have her typing and taking dictation instead. As she becomes more involved in the prime minister’s world, she discovers that the Nazis aren’t the only enemy the government is fighting, and her own family has a connection to those who want Britain to fall. The historical backdrop of air raid sirens, wartime rationing and gossip about Wallis Simpson are finely rendered, but the most engaging element of the book is Maggie herself. Though she’s betrayed by people she trusts and used as a pawn by spymasters, she still maintains her gritty determination, warm heart and sense of humour.
Mr. Churchill’s Secretary, Susan Elia MacNeal, $18.