Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Princess Elizabeth's Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal

Book description:
As World War II sweeps the continent and England steels itself against German attack, Maggie Hope, former secretary to Prime Minister Winston Churchill, completes her training to become a spy for MI-5. Spirited, strong-willed, and possessing one of the sharpest minds in government for mathematics and code-breaking, she fully expects to be sent abroad to gather intelligence for the British front. Instead, to her great disappointment, she is dispatched to go undercover at Windsor Castle, where she will tutor the young Princess Elizabeth in math. Yet castle life quickly proves more dangerous—and deadly—than Maggie ever expected. The upstairs-downstairs world at Windsor is thrown into disarray by a shocking murder, which draws Maggie into a vast conspiracy that places the entire royal family in peril. And as she races to save England from a most disturbing fate, Maggie realizes that a quick wit is her best defense, and that the smallest clues can unravel the biggest secrets, even within her own family.

After reading the first book in this series, I was excited to pick up the second. I expected a enjoyable, if not particularly historically accurate, novel and that is what I got. The characters are fun, the insights into life in WWII England interesting, and the code-breaking tidbits intriguing. All was well until the entire sub-plot regarding Maggie's parents started to emerge- as a fan of the TV show Alias, I was shocked to discover the wholesale use of the entire plotline about Sydney's parents. Even the lines that Hugh utters about a wall of poppies are lifted from Vaughn's speech to Sydney about the wall of stars at the CIA. This was no small similarity in circumstances- this is essentially lifting the plot of several Alias episodes and just changing the names of the characters!

I was deeply disappointed by this lack of originality and it undermined my enjoyment of the novel as a whole. If I were not a fan of Alias, I would have given this book four stars, but knowing how a central plot element was shamelessly stolen from the TV series, I'm giving it zero stars.

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