Thank you Talbots Book Club!



Delighted to share the news that the women’s clothing store Talbots is featuring THE PARIS SPY and THE QUEEN’S ACCOMPLICE as part of its new summer book club.


From WWD“As of Memorial Day weekend, Talbots will be expanding the Book Club through a partnership with Random House that will tout some of the publisher’s leading writers. Each week, a different author will be spotlighted in stores and on a designated landing page. On deck are Elizabeth Strout’s “Anything Is Possible,” Nancy Thayer’s “Secrets in Summer,” Lisa Wingate’s “Before We Were Yours,” Fannie Flagg’s “The Whole Town’s Talking” and Susan Elia MacNeal’s “The Paris Spy.” Once in full swing, shoppers will be able to get a sneak peek of chapters from their latest books, as well as exclusive interviews with big-name writers.”

Happy shopping and reading!






THE QUEEN’S ACCOMPLICE nominated for Barry Award

So very honored (Barry honored, in fact) that THE QUEEN’S ACCOMPLICE, Maggie Hope #6, has been nominated for a 2017 Barry Award


The Barry Award is a literary prize for crime fiction, awarded annually since 1997 by the editors of Deadly Pleasures, an American quarterly publication. The prize is named after Barry Gardner, an American critic.


Thank you so much — it’s an honor to be nominated. The winners will be announced at Bouchercon 2017 in  September in Toronto.


THE QUEEN’S ACCOMPLICE is out!

Well, THE QUEEN’S ACCOMPLICE is out and on the USA TODAY and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists, yay!


My editor, who also happens to edit Lee Child, Alan Bradley, and Laurie R. King, wrote a lovely piece for Penguin Random House. Thank you, Kate!

From the Editor’s Desk: Kate Miciak, Vice President & Director of Editorial for Ballantine Bantam Dell on Susan Elia MacNeal’s Maggie Hope books

OCT 3, 2016 EDITOR’S DESK
Editors get very passionate about books they work on – the Editor’s Desk series is his or her place to write in-depth about what makes a certain title special. Get the real inside-scoop on how books are shaped by the people who know them best.
It all started with a title on a manuscript submission I couldn’t get out of my brain: Mr. Churchill’s Secretary. OK, I admit to a certain obsession with the British icon–but his secretary? What must it have been like to work during Britain’s darkest hours with that flamboyant, irascible, outrageously complicated figure? Biographies and memoirs abound of Churchill’s generals, his family, his aides. We know all about his pets, his bathing habits, his socks, favorite drink and books. But his secretary?
As I turned the manuscript pages, I was hooked. For this debut novel wasn’t merely about life in the shadow of Winston Churchill during those scary, dangerous days of what became known as the “false war”—it was the captivating story of a brilliant, college-educated, ambitious young woman with a flair for math and codes…who found that the only job opening for a woman in wartime UK government was typing and filing: Talk about a glass ceiling!
And, she wasn’t even British.  She was an American.
An American woman in the Blitz, working at the side of the seminal power makers of the period, forced to elbow her way into a man’s world….And crimson lipstick and cocktails….
What’s not to love?
Over the course of six award-winning novels, Susan and her marvelous creation, Maggie Hope, continue to enthrall me. In these gloriously researched capers, Susan has led Maggie and her spellbound readers down the bomb-torn alleyways of London, into the heart ‎of the UK’s spy network, parachuting into enemy headquarters, conspiring with Eleanor Roosevelt in the very corridors of the White House.  She’s crafted an intimate glimpse of young Princess Lisbeth and the Royal Family at Windsor; cavorted with Fala, FDR’s Scottie; and courageously shown us the suffering of those in the concentration camps.  More important, she’s stripped away the bald historical facts to inveigle us deep into the hearts of women during war:  women making tough choices and sacrifices, surviving, fighting back, courageously holding together their lives and their jobs and their families under unspeakable pressures.
There was a real Mr. Churchill’s secretary, a woman named Elizabeth Nel who worked for the Prime Minister from 1941 to 1945 and even wrote a memoir of it, which begins: “It doesn’t really matter who I am or where I come from.  Without undue modesty, the only thing of real interest about me is that during World War II I worked for four and a half years as one of the Personal Secretaries to Sir Winston Churchill….”  
But Susan MacNeal has proven, time and time again in her marvelous, intriguing novels, that the women behind the scenes did matter.  And that’s the real triumph of the Maggie Hope novels.
Learn more about the Maggie Hope books below!
Mr. Churchill's Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal
For fans of Jacqueline Winspear, Laurie R. King, and Anne Perry, Mr. Churchill’s Secretary captures the drama of an era of unprecedented challenge—and the greatness that rose to meet it.

London, 1940. Winston Churchill has just been sworn in, war rages across the Channel, and the threat of a Blitz looms larger by…  Read more >

I WANT IT

Princess Elizabeth's Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal
Susan Elia MacNeal introduced the remarkable Maggie Hope in her acclaimed debut, Mr. Churchill’s Secretary. Now Maggie returns to protect Britain’s beloved royals against an international plot—one that could change the course of history. 
 
As World War II sweeps the continent and England steels itself against…  Read more >

I WANT IT

His Majesty's Hope by Susan Elia MacNeal
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

For fans of Jacqueline Winspear, Laurie R. King, and Anne Perry, whip-smart heroine Maggie Hope returns to embark on a clandestine mission behind enemy lines where no one can be trusted, and even the smallest indiscretion can be deadly.

World War II has finally come home to Britain, but it…  Read more >

I WANT IT

The Prime Minister's Secret Agent by Susan Elia MacNeal
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • For fans of Jacqueline Winspear, Charles Todd, and Anne Perry comes a gripping mystery featuring intrepid spy and code breaker Maggie Hope. This time, the fallout of a deadly plot comes straight to her own front door.
 
World War II rages on across Europe, but Maggie Hope has finally…  Read more >

I WANT IT

Mrs. Roosevelt's Confidante by Susan Elia MacNeal
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • In this riveting mystery from Susan Elia MacNeal, England’s most daring spy, Maggie Hope, travels across the pond to America, where a looming scandal poses a grave threat to the White House and the Allied cause.December 1941. Soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Winston Churchill…  Read more >

I WANT IT

The Queen's Accomplice by Susan Elia MacNeal
Spy and code-breaker extraordinaire Maggie Hope returns to war-weary London, where she is thrust into the dangerous hunt for a monster, as theNew York Times bestselling mystery series for fans of Jacqueline Winspear, Charles Todd, and Anne Perry continues.
 
England, 1942. The Nazis’ relentless Blitz may have…  Read more >

I WANT IT

THE QUEEN’S ACCOMPLICE and Balancing Work and Life


SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: It’s summer, and I’m desperately trying to balance family time and working on THE PARIS SPY (Maggie Hope #7). This basically consists of taking my computer on our family vacations to Hudson, NY and Providence, RI. 

So far I’ve worked — and missed going on a water park adventure, a hike, to a horse show, and a barbecue. 
And I’ve also played hookey from work (don’t tell my editor!) — to go to the horse stables to watch kiddo, have a lunch date at an amazing French place with my husband, and go swimming with all the kids and then take a nap in a hammock. 
I think the solution is to be fully present in whatever mode I’m in — family or work— but it’s hard. This summer, especially, I seem to be struggling. Whenever I’m doing one, I’m worrying about what I’m missing on the other side. There’s just always this feeling of not having enough time.

Right now we’re driving from Hudson, NY to Providence and I’m writing this blog post from the backseat of the car, with my computer propped up on my travel bag, while kibitzing on the conversation going on right now: “Why Aren’t Eleven-Year-Olds Allowed to Drive?” (Kiddo is saying that they should; Daddy is providing the counter argument.)
I don’t know that there’s a solution to this work/life dilemma. But I have been lucky enough to have a loyal writing buddy, Zola, on this leg of the vacation. She’s an elderly black lab mix who likes to curl up and sleep near me as type. When her family’s around, she loves them. And when they’re gone, she naps (her “work”). I love her. “Be like Zola” is perhaps the wisest thing I’ve come up with so far. It’s my new mantra.
Hey, we’re getting closer to the October 4 release of THE QUEEN’S ACCOMPLICE! Here’s the description from Penguin Random House:

Spy and code-breaker extraordinaire Maggie Hope returns to war-weary London, where she is thrust into the dangerous hunt for a monster, as the New York Times bestselling mystery series for fans of Jacqueline Winspear, Charles Todd, and Anne Perry continues.

England, 1942. The Nazis’ relentless Blitz may have paused, but  London’s nightly blackouts continue. Now, under the cover of darkness, a madman is brutally killing and mutilating young women in eerie and exact re-creations of Jack the Ripper’s crimes. What’s more, he’s targeting women who are reporting for duty to be Winston Churchill’s spies and saboteurs abroad. The officers at MI-5 quickly realize they need the help of special agent Maggie Hope to find the killer dubbed “the Blackout Beast.” A trap is set. But once the murderer has his sights on Maggie, not even Buckingham Palace can protect the resourceful spy from her fate.


And the first review, from Kirkus, lauds THE QUEEN’S ACCOMPLICE: Maggie … is a thoughtful spy whose dangerous escapades never disappoint.” Thank you! To celebrate, I’m giving away an autographed ARC to one lucky reader, who posts in the comments.
In the meantime, here’s the prologue of THE QUEEN’S ACCOMPLICE. Enjoy!
The winds were changing.They were blowing in from the east now, Vera Baines noted, from the East End. Even though the air raids had stopped for the moment in London—as Hitler turned his attentions toward Russia—the docks, railroads, and factories were still burning. Through her open bedroom window, she could smell cold wind scented with smoke and destruction. She watched as it ruffled the bare black branches of the trees of Regent’s Park, rustling dead ivy. 

Since the war had begun, the park had become a desolate expanse of meandering walkways, overgrown shrubbery, and long air-raid trenches—an ideal location for crime. 
But not on her watch. As an ARP warden for her section in Marylebone, Vera Baines knew not only the winds but the intricacies of light and dark. Sunset in London in late March 1942 arrived after six, but the violet shadows began to lengthen at least an hour earlier. This evening’s sunset was extraordinary—bright red, with crepuscular rays piercing wispy clouds. 

Despite barely clearing the five-foot mark and a slight figure, at eighty-three, Vera was a redoubtable woman. She was more wiry than frail, her energy giving the impression of her being much taller than she actually was. She had impeccable posture and moved with a force and confidence her friends and family hadn’t seen since her husband died ten years ago. And her face, with its high cheekbones and clear blue eyes that missed nothing, radiated strength.

Vera hated the war, hated the loss of innocent lives—but she couldn’t deny it had brought a certain clarity to her existence. As an ARP warden, she now felt she had a purpose: She would protect her own. As she surveyed the park’s deepening shadows from the window of her bone-colored Georgian terraced house, Vera felt responsibility, plus a fierce sense of love and pride. This was her London. These were her people. Nothing would happen to them on her sentry. 

It was time to begin her shift. Vera took one last look at the fad- ing light, listening to the forlorn cries of the birds, then picked her way downstairs, leaning on the railing. At her door, she put on her ARP tin hat, dark blue wool overcoat, and gloves, and reached for her walking stick—with a silver British bulldog on the handle. Then she went down the outside stairs and onto the icy flagstone pavement, bracing herself against the wind. She paced the street with her usual vigor, the pale symmetrical Nash architecture reflecting the last light of the dying sunset. The temperature was dropping and the air smelled of imminent storms. 

A passing white-haired man tipped his black bowler hat, and she nodded in return. “Oh, Mr. Saunders—” she called after him, her breath making clouds in the chill air. 

The man stopped and turned. “Yes, Mrs. Baines?” 

“I noticed a chink in your blackout curtain on the second floor last night. Please see to it no light is visible from now on.” 

He took a few steps forward and frowned down at her. “We haven’t had an air raid in months, dearie.” 

Vera was not deterred by his bulk, his height, or his condescending tone. “And the Luftwaffe might be choosing tonight for a return visit, Mr. Saunders. Let’s not give them any light to guide them to us, shall we?”

She strode on, chin high, taking her usual route past the charred remains of Regent’s Park’s brick wall. The last of the sun’s light melted away, but Vera didn’t mind the dark; she liked being out alone at night. Without electric lights to pierce the darkness, the nighttime took on a new beauty in the icy bright moonlight. Her shuttered flashlight illuminated the strips of white paint on the curbs and tree trunks, giving off a ghostly glow. 

In the distance, she could hear the sounds of the city: the faint rumble of motor traffic, the clip-clop of horses’ hooves on cobble- stones, the screeches and flaps of bats off to their night’s hunt. The wind picked up once again, causing the ancient tree branches to sway and creak, the dead leaves and lipstick-stained cigarette butts in the gutters to dance. 

Without artificial light, Regent’s Park at night could have been any era in London—from the time when ancient Britons painted themselves blue, to the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, to the period of Victoria and Albert. Even the clocks obliged: When the Nazi bombs exploded, all nearby timepieces ceased to function, paralyzed at whatever time they were at the instant of impact. These comatose clocks were another reason Vera could imagine time telescoping—the suspended present creating an atmosphere where time travel seemed no mere fantasy. Really, anything seemed possible, especially in the shadows of night. It even smelled as it could have hundreds of years ago—the same stink of urine against the crumbling brick walls as there would have been in Pepys’s day. 

In the darkness, Vera tripped and nearly fell, saved only by her trusty walking stick. “What the—?” she muttered, her grip in leather gloves tight on the silver handle. She righted herself, glad Mr. Saunders hadn’t been there to see. 


She looked down at a long blanket-wrapped bundle. Leaning over, flashlight in one hand, she lifted and pulled back the wool covering with the tip of her cane. 

Vera gave a sharp inhale, but didn’t cry out when she saw the butchered body of a young woman. The body looked to have be- longed to a girl in her early twenties—healthy and athletic, hair curled. Her throat had been slashed so savagely her head was nearly severed from her body. Her belly had been slit through her ATS uniform, which was soaked through with blood. 

Vera felt as if she’d been struck dumb. But she swallowed, braced her shoulders, gathering her strength. “Murder!” she managed to croak. “Murder!” she cried, louder this time. “Someone— someone fetch the police!” 

A blond boy in a tweed cap walking past stopped and stared. “What the devil’s going on? Are you all right, ma’am?” 

Vera lifted her chin, squared her shoulders, and deployed the stiff upper lip she’d perfected over a lifetime of practice. “Yes, yes, of course am,” she reassured him. “But I’m afraid she isn’t,” she added, pointing to the woman’s mutilated body with the silver tip of her walking stick. 

The boy squinted in the darkness, eyes following the flashlight’s beam When he realized what he was seeing, he tore off his cap and crossed himself, whispering, “Bloody hell.” He looked from the body back to Vera. “She’s been ripped, ma’am.” He shook his head, his hands worrying at his hat. “Looks like she’s been done in by Jack the Bloody Ripper himself.” 

“What are you going on about, young man?” Despite her occasional daydreams—or night dreams—Vera had no patience for macabre nonsense. But the boy was looking past her to the park’s brick wall, gaping at lettering. 

With a shaking hand, Vera raised her flashlight. The words scrawled across the wall were painted the same ghostly, glowing white paint as the curbs.

They read, JACK IS BACK. 

Editing THE QUEEN’S ACCOMPLICE



SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: I know I wrote just earlier this week about starting Maggie Hope #7, set in Paris during the Occupation on Jungle Reds, but wouldn’t you know it — just got back copyedits for THE QUEEN’S ACCOMPLICE. So it’s a bit of “two steps forward, three steps back.” 

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THE QUEEN’S ACCOMPLICE is Maggie Hope novel #6, and set in London. It’s my first serial killer novel, based on the real-life murderer who terrorized London during the Blitz Blackouts. It’s also my most “traditional” mystery — since the murder victims are female SOE secret agents tapped to be dropped behind enemy lines in Europe, Maggie is chosen as the special liaison to MI-5 and Scotland Yard, who are working jointly on the case.

This particular novel was also influenced by the Wellcome 

Collection in London’s exhibit, “Forensics: Anatomy of a Crime” and the accompanying book by novelist Val McDermid. The trick to writing about a murder set in the winter of 1942 is to make sure the forensics used are historically accurate and the exhibition and book were amazingly helpful.

Aside from the murders and mystery, one of the things I love most about this novel is that we’re back in London and get to see a lot of old friends: David Greene, of course, who’s still head private secretary to Mr. Churchill. We also catch up with ballet dancer Sarah Sanderson, who’s hung up her pointe shoes for a Sten gun, joining the SOE and preparing to be dropped in Paris. Joining her is Hugh Thompson, Maggie’s former boyfriend, who’s going to be her partner undercover. In MRS. ROOSEVELT’S CONFIDANTE, Maggie made a deal with Mr. Churchill to help her half-sister, Elise Hess, escape from Ravensbruck concentration camp, where she’s being held as a political prisoner — and we see how that’s going….

For copyedits, I like to leave home for a few days. Just really

need absolute silence. “Honey, what’s for dinner?” and “Mommy, can I play with Johnny?” break the concentration. So with any luck, a friend will need apartment or housesitting and I’ll be able to get away on my own for a bit. 

I am excited — and also overwhelmed. 

Please wish me luck!

MRS. ROOSEVELT’S CONFIDANTE, THE QUEEN’S ACCOMPLICE, and Jack the Ripper

LEAVE A COMMENT TODAY ON THE 
TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY FOR A FREE ARC OF 
MRS. ROOSEVELT’S CONFIDANTE!





SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Happy Sunday, lovely readers! I’m delighted to tell you that MRS. ROOSEVELT’S CONFIDANT is now out in ARCs (aka Advance Reader Copies)! And yes, I do have one to give away to one reader who leaves a comment on the Jungle Reds siteAnd wow, the book’s publication date is October 27, 2015 — that’s just four months away! As our Hank would say, “Whoa.”











The other books in the Maggie Hope series are doing well, too. MR. CHURCHILL’S SECRETARY is now in its 16th printing, the other titles are in multiple printings, and Barnes & Noble has come up with a nifty bookshelf display. This one is from our local B&N, but I hear there are others?












So, in between getting Kiddo through the last of 4th grade (sniff), getting ready for summer (Rhode Island!), and copy edits for MRS. ROOSEVELT’S CONFIDANT (hair-pulling and nail-biting), I’ve also been researching and writing book #6 in the Maggie Hope series, THE QUEEN’S ACCOMPLICE.


This is now two books ahead for readers — and I want to be careful not to spoil anything for anyone. But I can say that THE QUEEN’S ACCOMPLICE will follow Maggie from Washington, D.C. back to London. And in it, we’ll meet a new baddie — the Blackout Ripper — a serial killer (or, rather, a “sequential murderer,” since the term “serial killer” wasn’t in use back then) who preys on the smart, ambitious, professional women.


I knew Maggie would be back in London for this book — and so I began to think her struggles against the patriarchy as a smart and capable woman weren’t getting enough page space, the way they did in the earlier books. And so I deliberately created a killer who was targeting strong professional women — the women who were to be sent abroad to fight in the SOE (the Special Operations Executive — the British black ops organization Maggie has been working for). Since the killer is targeting women of SOE, Maggie’s brought in by old friend Peter Frain of MI-5, to work alongside her old frenemy, Mark Stafford — and also a new character, a detective from Scotland Yard. 


[ When I began the project, I became obsessed with the literature of Victorian London. Many of the books I’d already read (women in Victorian lit was my specialty as an English major in college). But I wanted to go back to the really gothic books. So I chose DRACULA and DR. JEKYL AND MR. HYDE. DRACULA, I’d read in junior high or thereabouts, but it was still plenty scary. As well as unintentionally hilarious: “Get Mina recipe for chicken paprika.”]


And then there’s Jack the Ripper, himself. I started with THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF JACK THE RIPPER, then on to 1880: LONDON MURDERS IN THE AGE OF JACK THE RIPPER, and lots more. Like many, I knew the story without really knowing a lot of facts. The details are grisly.




But — why the fascination with Jack the Ripper, you may ask? 

Good question. 

Jack keeps coming up in the public consciousness as well as literature and pop culture for many reasons. Any plot about about the Jack the Ripper (or a new Ripper) contains coded discussions of the dangers of unrestrained male sexuality, misogynist fears of female sexuality, and censure of female autonomy. 


And so I turned to the scholarly book, A CITY OF DREADFUL DELIGHT, a feminist interpretation of the Ripper murders and their effects. The book also explores how Jack the Ripper (and his many fictional variations) has acted as a catalyst for women’s anger against male violence against women in the public sphere. As author Judith R. Walkowitz argues: The Whitechapel murders have continued to provide a common vocabulary of male violence against women, a vocabulary now more than one hundred years old. Its persistence owes much to the mass media’s exploitation of Ripper iconography. Depictions of female mutilation in mainstream cinema, celebrations of the Ripper as a ‘hero’ of crime intensify fears of male violence and convince women that they are helpless victims.”


And so, in other words, if I’m going to take on the Ripper myth as a feminist writer with a strong heroine, I’d better tell it in a radically different way. And that’s my goal. In the usual Ripper stories and films, the Ripper’s challenger is a man — a detective or a journalist usually. The female victims are peripheral to the hunt/catch story. 


In this newest Maggie Hope book, I want to turn that traditional Ripper narrative on its head.


Reading about Jack the Ripper led me to books about our own first serial killer here in the U.S., H. H. Holmes, including Erik Larson’s excellent THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY. Jane Addams, the urban reformer who founded Chicago’s Hull House, wrote about the time period — which has its parallel in London of World War II — “Never before in civilization have such numbers of young girls been suddenly released from the protection of the home and permitted to walk unattended upon the city streets and to work under alien roofs.”





I’m also doing research on women in police force during World War II. Yes! It’s true! 










And not just researching, but writing, too — it’s just a wee bit too early for me to feel comfortable showing any pages. But please rest assured there are about 100 rough pages written, 100 more sketched out pages, and a whole slew of notes and ideas. Maggie’s met a lot of horrific people in wartime, but this — a serial killer — is a first. And it’s scary. (I’m scaring myself sometimes, which must be good, right?)


Dear lovely readers, please leave a comment here to be entered to win an ARC of MRS. ROOSEVELT’S CONFIDANTE!