Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Paris Spy (a Maggie Hope Mystery #8) by Susan Elia MacNeal

When last we left Maggie Hope, her college friend Sarah Sanderson and her old boyfriend Hugh Thompson, both now Special Operations Executive (SOE) agents, were preparing to go to France to work undercover, while Maggie was excitedly expecting her newly discovered half sister, Elise Hess, to arrive in London from Germany.

It is now June 1942 when The Paris Spy opens and France has be under German occupation since June 1940 and the Nazis have quite comfortably ensconced themselves in Paris, enjoying the finer things the city has to offer. 

Sarah and Hugh, code named Sabine Severin and Hubert Taillier respectively, have also arrived in Paris, she as a dancer, he as a cellist to work undercover as part of a Paris ballet company. Their assignment is to collect a bag of sand sample SOE agent Erica Calvert had collected from the beaches of Normandy, France, in preparation for the proposed invasion and it is imperative that those sample not get into the hands of the Nazis. 

Maggie has also arrived in Paris hoping for discover what happened to her half sister. Elise never showed up in London, as planned.

More importantly, however, she is there to try to discover what happened to SOE agent Erica Calvert - is she dead? Alive? Compromised? Her radio transmittals have been coming through to England but without the required security check. And what about her sand samples? 

After months of waiting in the home of two resistance workers, Maggie has finally received her forged identity papers, becoming Paige Kelly from Ireland, in Paris to shop for her trousseau. Ireland was neutral during the war and so Maggie is free to move around as she pleases. She immediately checks into the Hôtel Ritz, now headquarters for the German Luftwaffe, and home to designer Coco Chanel, who in reality did live there for 37 years, including the war years, and who immediately befriends Maggie, who just happens to be wearing a Chanel suit when they meet.

And to add to the danger of simply operating in an occupied area, the Nazis seem to know exactly who the SOE agents are and what they are doing in France, which can only mean one thing - there is a mole in SOE. But who can it be? And will Maggie find out before all the SOE agents’ lives are put in jepardy?

There is a lot going on inThe Paris Spy. There’s mystery and intrigue mixed with the really odd glamour that was Paris after the Nazis arrived. MacNeal has really captured the two sides of the German officers who were running operations there. On the surface, they demanded the finer things associated with France - lots of champagne, the finest foods, and the best accommodations. Below the surface, the level of physical and mental cruelty is stunning. 

And in-between is Coco Chanel. Chanel has long been suspected of being a Nazi collaborator. MacNeal’s depiction of her is ambiguous at best, and it is up to the reader to decide whether or not she is a Nazi spy, or a double agent in The Paris Spy. Of course, there is the whispered comment Chanel made to Maggie on page 245…   

I personally felt this was a particularly interesting novel. Although Maggie has rubbed shoulders with all kinds of big players from WWII - from the Queen and Winston Churchill to President and Mrs. Roosevelt, among others -  I felt like this was a more thought provoking story and not just a good historical fiction mystery. Not because Maggie, Sarah, or Hugh have changed, but there was more of an insider’s look into how and why things were done and events that unfolded in it. 

The Paris Spy is sure to please fans of Maggie and, aside from maybe not totally understanding how Elise Hess comes into the picture, it can be read as a stand alone historical fiction novel, not just as part of a mystery series.

I am now eagerly looking forward to Maggie Hope #8

This book is recommended for readers age 14+
This book was an EARC received from NetGalley

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