MacNeal's writing in the Maggie Hope series (this is book four) has been fantastic since its inception. Having said that, I feel this one doesn't quite reach the level of the previous three. Each novel shows a more detailed side of Maggie, her family history, and her extended list of friends, though. A rather intimate, detailed look at WWII is woven in the tale, coloring what the once-badly wounded Maggie feels about her British roots. The brewing maelstrom in the Pacific is heating up, and famous names linger on the pages: Winston Churchill, Clara Hess, Ian Fleming, and more.
Scotland is the setting for this book, and for Maggie's time of healing. Accepting a teaching position at her previous training grounds, she struggles a bit at her new job.
She is awkward at it, fumbling for the right approach to her students and her former teachers, now fellow staff. The setting is dynamically beautiful Scotland, with a ragged coastline, rambling farm land, and brisk weather to enjoy. Maggie is dealing with what we would now call some kind of post-traumatic stress from her experiences in Berlin (book three), and her enjoyment isn't at a high point. She struggles with what she (and Churchill) call the Black Dog of depression. Those signs and symptoms haven't really been acknowledged or studied until way after WWII (or even Korea and Vietnam), so I liked MacNeal's inclusion of that storytelling.
As Maggie comes to peace, albeit slowly, with her teaching gig and her depression, she is actually forced to take a brief leave to relax, and she goes to Glasgow to see a friend perform in the ballet. This becomes a key spot in the plot-line, as her friend and two others in the ballet company fall dangerously ill, apparently due to poisoning. Maggie becomes involved and starts working in several areas to solve a couple of different but interrelated mysteries. She finds her depression lessening as she embraces the strange happenings in Scotland.
Maggie is maturing in spirit and depth of understanding. She is stronger now, although this novel seems to be a transitional one for the next book (Mrs. Roosevelt's Confidante) which takes place in the US and brings together Maggie's upbringing, as British citizen raised in the United States by a loving aunt. As this book draws to a close, Clara Hess exits, stage left, at least for now. Pearl Harbor shines a light for the British in bringing the United States into the fray of WWII. MacNeal summarizes the book up rather openly, setting the stage for Maggie's trip to the
States. Maggie has brought to rest some of her affairs and friendships and is ready to cross the sea. MacNeal
has written another book with a deep set of Historical Notes at the back, six pages that encourage the reader to explore that time in history and the world as it was.