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Book Review from Fay: Susan Elia MacNeal's The King's Justice

“What if rage--and a woman’s rage at that--didn’t have to be a negative thing? What if rage could be something to motivate, and galvanize, and ultimately change things for the better? Just be honest, that’s all you can do.” - The King’s Justice

The most recent installment of the Maggie Hope Mystery series by Susan Elia MacNeal, The King’s Justice, lived up to my expectations, while also offering a new reader experience. If you’ve not read any of the previous eight books, consider adding them to your list. This is a series about a strong woman, written by a fantastic female author.

To provide some background, protagonist Maggie Hope is a mathematician by training, and approaches her job and her cases in the only way she can--analytically. She’s very smart, identifying and deciphering complex codes to solve cases ahead of her male superiors. In fact, the entire series features strong women who are doing work that was typically reserved for men of the era. However, World War II has given or forced them into these roles.

The series’ setting is primarily London, though Maggie’s travels take her to other locations. Though the stories are nonfiction, there are very real historical situations and characters woven through each. This series also deals with complex issues of death, sexuality, race, abuse, PTSD, dysfunctional families and more.

In typical MacNeal form, the mystery unfolds with hints happening fairly early on. The clues can be a bit heavy-handed, but you still need to be reading pretty carefully to catch them. One thing I love about her novels are the vivid depictions of settings, and this one of Little Italy in London is no different. The smells, sounds and visuals are typically important factors in the plot as well. As with her previous books, performers are often featured characters, lending the stories an element of the theatrical. And though Prime Minister Winston Churchill does not make an appearance in this novel, the reader still enjoys his famous aphorisms sprinkled throughout.

Unique to The King’s Justice is the emotional turmoil Maggie Hope is experiencing after the trials of the previous few novels. This particular story is as much about an internal war as an external one. It’s a bit different than the others--slightly less action and adventure, and more character development and internal struggle. I’ve grown to love Maggie, so this was a real treat for me!

I’ve read the entire series in the last year, and found them to be easy, yet smart reads. I feel wiser and stronger after reading them, and each one left me thinking long after I turned the final page.

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