“You grew up in America, after all—exactly what do you know about British aristocracy?”
“Not much beyond the historical, I’m afraid,” Maggie said.
“All right, impromptu quiz—what do you say when you meet the King and Queen?”
Maggie gave David a wry look. Frain had forgotten about royal etiquette lessons. “Hello?”
David smacked himself on the head. “Oh, my dear Eliza Doolittle — we have a long night ahead of us.” (Ch.5, p.52)
This book is Maggie Hope Mystery #2, a sequel to Mr. Churchill’s Secretary. After she has discovered and broken the hidden Nazi code that points to three specific attacks in London, Maggie Hope is no longer Winston Churchill’s secretary at Number Ten. She has proven that her scientific acumen, intelligence, problem-solving skills and ability to handle dangerous situations make her a great asset to the British war effort. The beginning of Princess Elizabeth’s Spy sees Maggie entering MI-5 school for spies. Although her grades are stellar, she doesn’t do well enough on the physical tests to be sent abroad to gather intelligence for the British front.
Maggie shook her head. A decapitated Lady-in-Waiting, rabid corgis, and a man who lives with birds? ‘I thought living in a castle would be interesting, Sir Owens,’ she said, ‘but nothing—absolutely nothing—prepared me for this. . . Maggie went back into the sitting room. She stopped by the bookcase, which was empty. She squinted at it. The dust indicated books had been there for a time and had recently been removed. Now, that’s odd, she thought. Why would someone take Lily’s books? (Ch.9, p.102-3)
Instead MI-5 finds a job for her as math tutor to Princess Elizabeth, a post as an undercover, so she can keep an eye on Elizabeth, fondly known as Lilibet, who, as heir to the throne, may be a Nazi target. Soon she realizes danger is on the prowl on castle grounds when a lady-in-waiting is murdered. Her book, removed from the shelf of her quarter, is proof of connection to another murder at the Claridge’s in London. Castle life quickly proves more dangerous and her assignment, after all, is not cushy but one that involves intrigue, kidnapping, and treason. In this novel, besides the conspiracy that places the entire royal family in peril, Maggie Hope also grapples with the loss of her boyfriend and the possible truth that her father, Edmund Hope, an expert in code and cipher at Bletchley, might have been a German spy.
As Maggie needs to discern who the German agents are that have infiltrated the castle, she races against time to save England and its heir from a most disturbing fate. Although Princess Elizabeth’s Spy is not a historical fiction, more a fictional story set in the past with real characters, the book is very well-researched. The Windsor Castle, with its grandeur and staidness, is a workplace like “living in a museum—and terribly cold in winter” during the war. The King and Queen were strict about rationing, so even the princesses were limited to one egg per week, and the rest of the restrictions the British people lived through. The castle’s dungeons were used a bomb shelter where servants and the Princesses move their beds, changes of clothes, books, kitchen utensil and furniture in to keep calm and carry on. This light mystery gives one a glimpse of what it was like to live in war-time England and the story constantly keeps one on the edge using humor and red herrings.
369 pp. Bantam Books. Paper. [Read/
Skim/ Toss] [Buy/ Borrow]