Sunday, June 16, 2024

The Last Hope (A Maggie Hope Mystery #11) by Susan Elia MacNeal

The Last Hope: A Maggie Hope Mystery
by Susan Elia MacNeal

I'm a little on the OCD side and although I closed The Children's War in December 2023, I find I can't not review the final book in the Maggie Hope series. So here goes...

The Last Hope is the eleventh and final (?) book in Susan Elia MacNeal's wonderful WWII mystery series featuring Maggie Hope. Maggie has had some scary adventures since the war began and she became an SOE agent to do her bit, but her final mission may just be the most difficult.

It’s January 1944 and no sooner has Maggie returned from Los Angeles with the love of her life, John Sterling, then she gets an early morning call from Kim Philly, head of the Iberian Section of MI-6. Word is that the Germans are working on a fission bomb that could erase a whole city from the face of the earth and it is suspected the Werner Heisenberg, a pioneer in quantum theory, may be behind their research. Maggie’s new mission is to travel to Madrid, Spain under the alias Paige Kelly (see Mr. Churchill's Secretary, Maggie Hope #1), where Heisenberg is giving a lecture and to assassinate him. But Maggie being the mathematician that she is decides that she needs to determine whether the Nazis have such a bomb or not. If they do, Heisenberg dies, if not, he lives.

Realizing that the war is not going well, and since Allied demand for an unconditional surrender is not an option, it is decided by Heinrich Himmler and General Walter Schellenberg that Germany’s only hope of survival would depend on negotiating a separate peace with the Allies sans that Soviet Union. The hope is this would keep communism out of western Europe. And now that information about the Final Solution is leaking out, one of their bargaining chips would be the lives of the remaining Jews. And Schellenberg has just the right contacts for getting the offer of a separate peace into the hands of Winston Churchill: Axis spies Coco Chanel and her current amor, Hans von Dincklage will be traveling to Madrid on the pretext of hearing Heisenberg’s lecture.

It turn out that Maggie as Paige Kelly owes Coco a favor after she saved Maggie’s life back in 1942 (see The Paris Spy, Maggie Hope #7) and Coco has every intention of calling the favor in, insisting that Maggie/Paige personally deliver the peace proposal including a handwritten letter from Coco herself directly into the hands of Winston Churchill.

And, of course, Maggie being Maggie, she attracts the attention of the famous bull fighter Juanito Belamonte, whose fame gives him all kinds of useful connections so that he can unwittingly help Maggie.

There's a lot going in in this novel that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Does Maggie assassinate Heisenberg? Obviously not (not a spoiler), but she has some very interesting conversations with him about quantum theory and his uncertainty principal. And the whole time she is carrying out her mission, Maggie has her personal life and her relationship with John Sterling very much on her mind.

The Last Hope was a bittersweet read. It was so good that I could hardly put it down, but then again, I didn’t want to finish it and say good bye to Maggie and her friends. I found it particularly interesting since I’ve take quantum theory courses and really thought that MacNeal did an excellent job making it accessible for those of us who are not physicists or mathematicians.

The story is loaded with names of real people and I found myself going to the internet to find out more about them. In fact, all the Maggie Hope books have been like that and I like a historical novel that gets my curiosity going. MacNeal is so great at incorporating her research seamlessly into her stories.

I’m going to miss Maggie, but I can highly recommend each and every one of her wartime adventures, but by 1944, she has certainly done more than her bit for the war effort.

So, good-bye, Maggie, good luck and marry John Sterling as soon as possible.

Thank you to Ballantine/RH and NetGalley for allowing me to read this E-ARC.

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