Book review: Maggie Hope goes to Washington

Secretary-turned-spy Maggie Hope returns in Susan Elia MacNeal’s “Mrs. Roosevelt’s Confidante,” the fifth book in the addictive World War II-era mystery series.

This time, Maggie is on native soil as she accompanies Winston Churchill on a visit to the White House weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Churchill and President Roosevelt are conferring to navigate the United States’ entry into the war. Other members of Churchill’s posse include Maggie’s friend David and her recently reconciled flame, John.

MacNeal pays so much attention to detail in describing the White House and the capital, which is decked out for the holidays but shrouded in post-Pearl Harbor mourning and prewar nerves and patriotism, that readers will feel like flies on the walls. She paints convincing portraitures of the Roosevelts and other real-life historical figures—even Fala, the nation’s first dog.

Maggie has overcome a lot of the trauma associated with family members’ betrayals, dark times and wartime atrocities. But as she makes this visit to the hub of her native nation, readers see her continuing to come into her own as she tries to mend a strained relationship with her lover and find her place in the world.

While this visit to Washington is a homecoming for Maggie, it seems she feels most at home solving a mystery. And a mystery is what greets her in D.C.

When one of Mrs. Roosevelt’s aides is found dead in a bathtub, Maggie puts her detective skills to use investigating the death and fending off a scandal that could implicate the first lady.

She comes to suspect the crime is linked to Eleanor’s involvement in the defense of a black man on death row in Virginia.

Since the U.S. is divided—to say the least—on its approach to racial issues, Churchill and Roosevelt find it vital that this potential scandal and the racial tensions that would arise from bringing more attention to the condemned man’s case do not threaten the country’s unified front and the Allied cause.

The situation becomes increasingly dangerous as Maggie works to solve the mystery while hopefully helping a man condemned to death receive the fair trial he deserves.

The author continues to tackle heady issues while giving us a beloved heroine to root for. Wrought with peril and tension and extraordinarily rich in detail and research, Hope’s latest adventure will not disappoint fans of the series.

Andi Russell is an editor at The Free Lance–Star.

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