Mrs. Roosevelt’s Confidante: A Maggie Hope Mystery

Written by Susan Elia MacNeal
Review by Helene Williams

Intrepid spy Maggie Hope is back on US soil for the first time in years in her newest mystery adventure. It’s Christmas, 1941, just after Pearl Harbor, and the US is preparing to enter World War II. Maggie has accompanied Prime Minister Winston Churchill across the Atlantic, along with fellow secretaries David Green and John Sterling. They’re finalizing preparations to show a united front between Churchill and President Franklin Roosevelt when Maggie gets caught up in a problem brought to her by Eleanor Roosevelt: her secretary, Blanche Balfour, hasn’t shown up for work, and Eleanor was worried. What Maggie and Mrs. Roosevelt find at Blanche’s apartment is but one piece in a much larger puzzle which, if not solved quickly, could tear apart the White House, national unity, and the fledgling Allied partnership between the US and British forces.

Readers become privy to Mrs. Roosevelt’s activism, her work for social justice, and the reality of the Jim Crow South as she tries to save unfairly-convicted black sharecropper Wendell Cotton from the electric chair. MacNeal’s images and characters are true to the time, and the resonance of several of the subplots with current events deepen the impact of the tale; MacNeal is to be commended for her skillful weaving of racial and gender issues into an already complex political picture. Readers also learn a little more about Maggie’s family as well as some of the newest British spying tactics during that time. There’s a tremendous amount of world and US history in this delightful volume, and MacNeal provides notes about resources readers can consult for further reading.