Saturday, April 4, 2020

The King's Justice (a Maggie Hope Mystery #9) by Susan Elia MacNeal

I can't believe this is the ninth Maggie Hope mystery I've read. It seems like just yesterday I was reading #1 - Mr. Churchill's Secretary - and yet, it was back in 2012.

Maggie Hope has always been like such an intelligent, level-headed pillar of strength to me, but in The King's Justice we see a different side of Maggie, a more devil-may-care woman and who could blame her given all she has been through already.

It's now March 1943 and Nicholas Reitter, the Jack-the-Ripper copycat serial killer known as the Blackout Beast, and whose last victim was almost Maggie, has been sentenced to death for his crimes (see The Queen's Accomplice, Maggie Hope Mystery #6). Not sure she can ever put her experience with the Blackout Beast behind her, Maggie has refused to have anything more to do with spying for Churchill's SOE and is no longer working for MI5. Even DCI James Durgin, whom she is dating, can't change her mind, not even to help find a valuable stolen Stradivarius violin. 

Instead, Maggie has has taken up traveling around London on a rickety motorcycle, smoking and drinking too much, and volunteering to work with the 107th Tunneling Company of the Royal Engineers, defusing bombs that were dropped by the Luftwaffe during the Blitz. Known as the "Suicide Squad" it is a troop of conscientious objectors, most of whom are Itailan COs. 

But now, it seems there is another serial killer on the loose in London, one quickly nicknamed Jimmy Greenteeth. A number of suitcases full of clean white bones have been found during low tide in the Thames River, along with a white feather. Could the bones belong to London's conscientious objectors, possibly even friends of Maggie? But none of the men not showing up for work have been reported missing. Durgin is stumped and Maggie still refuses to help him solve the case.

But then, just days before his execution, Nicholas Reitter, now being held in the Tower of London,  claims he can help the police fine this new serial killer, but the only person he will speak to is Maggie Hope. And there's a condition attached to his information - Reitter wants a Royal Pardon from His Majesty, King George VI to stop his execution. Knowing this pardon will never happen, and angry with Durgin that he won't warn the COs about the white feathers found with the bones, Maggie ultimately finds herself involved in the Jimmy Greenteeth case when the young man she has been training, Milo Tucci, goes missing.

Perhaps not quite as action-packed as past Maggie Hope adventures, The King's Justice is nevertheless an exciting, complicated mystery. At first I thought that there would be a problem with linking this book up to a past story and using a specific events and recurring characters. I wondered if new readers might get lost unless there is enough background info given without spoiling too much of the action in each story. Not to worry - new readers don't need to know all the details from The Queen's Accomplice, but could well be inspired to begin reading Maggie's mysteries from the very beginning,  or just Book #6.

Old friends of Maggie, like myself, will enjoy her new adventure and, without giving anything away, you know what we are all hoping for in Maggie Hope #10, given how this ends.

One of the things I like really like about Maggie Hope mysteries is the attention to detail author Susan Elia MacNeal gives to presenting an in-depth picture of wartime London in her descriptions, and in this one particularly, the treatment of conscientious objectors, and enemy aliens, as well as in her use of British history, i.e. Jimmy Greenteeth is named after Jenny Greenteeth, a character in English folklore who would pulled people into a river and drowned them (and allows MacNeal to interrogate gendered ideas about who is capable of killing).

I am almost never disappointed when reading a Maggie Hope mystery, and now, I can't wait to see what #10 brings for her.

This book is recommended for readers age 13+
This book was an EARC gratefully received from NetGalley

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