Author: Susan Elia MacNeal
Provided Synopsis: World War II rages on across Europe, but Maggie Hope has finally found a moment of rest on the pastoral coast of western Scotland. Home from an undercover mission in Berlin, she settles down to teach at her old spy training camp, and to heal from scars on both her body and heart. Yet instead of enjoying the quieter pace of life, Maggie is quickly drawn into another web of danger and intrigue. When three ballerinas fall strangely ill in Glasgow—including one of Maggie’s dearest friends—Maggie partners with MI-5 to uncover the truth behind their unusual symptoms. What she finds points to a series of poisonings that may expose shocking government secrets and put countless British lives at stake. But it’s the fight brewing in the Pacific that will forever change the course of the war—and indelibly shape Maggie’s fate.
Review: Because it is impossible to go into The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent without high expectations after the way book three ended, I would like to advise readers to curb their enthusiasm. Book number four of this series had problems, and I think a great deal of the disappointment I received from it can be blamed on the way it was designed.
After the trouble she faced in Berlin I had been eagerly anticipating my return to Maggie. I knew she was damaged after her experiences and choices, and I was pleased with this character development because it meant that she had begun to realize that her rash actions held consequences not only for herself, but for those around her. So, to heal from her ordeal Maggie has gone to Scotland to be an instructor for agents-in-training; she is hard on her recruits and she is hard on herself. Eventually she is invited to see her friend, Sarah, perform a ballet in Scotland, where Sarah soon falls ill — along with two other women of the ballet — with mysterious symptoms. The mystery of the illness and who is responsible for the exposure seemed like something more suited for a novella than a full-length novel. To me, it came off as more a side adventure to give the main character something to do while the author focused upon other things.
Which brings me to the largest problem I had with The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent: Maggie is on the peripheral vision of all the other action in the book. There was a storyline with her mother that was odd and that ended even stranger. And, most importantly, there was the storyline of the United States finally becoming involved in World War II. This “involvement” storyline, however, did not translate well; it was more of a history reenactment of the collapse of negotiations between the US and Japan, and the attack on Pearl Harbor. This heavy dose of history was interwoven throughout the book; unfortunately, it came off bland and cumbersome because Maggie had no position here.
The final fifteen percent of the novel was where I began to finally enjoy myself, as it returned to what makes this series work. Maggie has once again become an active participant in the war effort along with Churchill, John, and David; the next book should give her something to do, so I will look forward to it while simultaneously hoping that the structure of this story will not be revisited.
(I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The expected publication date is July 1, 2014.)