Panthers Play for Keeps
A Pru Marlowe Pet Noir
Poisoned Pen Press, April 2014
ISBN No. 978-1-59058-870-3
Pru Marlowe is walking Spot, a dog she is training. In the woods outside of town Spot suddenly begins whining and Pru decides to give him a break and let him run after whatever he is thinks is up ahead. Pru has an ability to communicate with animals and can normally understand what the animal is attempting to communicate but not this time. Pru gives Spot the Danger signal and he responds by stopping in front of Pru as he should but Spot continues whining. Pru finds herself gazing in front of Spot at the body of a woman that has been attacked by something that has shredded her clothing and left her head split open. It would seem the woman had been mauled by a large cat.
Pru is training the dog to be a companion to a man who is facing blindness. Laurel, Pru’s romantic rival for the affection of Detective Jim, is fostering the dog until Spot is completely trained and ready to be turned over to his new master. Pru’s cat believes that there is a big cat on the loose and Spot believes that there is more to the problem than just the big cat. When Pru finds out that the deceased is an employee of the man she is training Spot for she decides to do some investigating on her own.
This is an interesting mystery and one that any animal lover would enjoy.
Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, June 2014.
His Majesty’s Hope
A Maggie Hope Mystery
Susan Elia MacNeal
Bantam, May 2013
This excellent historical novel is, of course, fiction all the way, although it is set during one of the world’s greatest real upheavals. It should appeal to readers interested in World War II, in spy and espionage stories, and those who like solid thrillers. It also provides some interesting insight into how the great evil that was Adolph Hitler and the Nazi empire, evolved in the early years of the European war before the entry of the United States.
The novel owes a good deal of its strength and interest to the closely personal stories of Maggie Hope, the central character and her colleagues, her loves and those around her at greater distance. On one level readers are treated to a well-researched look at the maneuverings of intelligence gathering efforts on both sides of the English Channel, and the way in which British spymasters recruited and ruthlessly used any human resources to help them win the war. And even though these people have the reader sympathies, being on the side of the angels, their attitudes and actions were not much different from those of the enemy.
Maggie Hope, an American, recruited for and working in British Secret Service, is dropped into Berlin to deliver communications devices. And because she’s an independent sort, opportunities arise that keep her in-country far beyond the scope of the original mission. As a character, Maggie is exactly the kind of heroic figure we want in these stories, yet she is far from perfect, beset by doubts, and ineptitude from colleagues, she manages with appropriate derring-do and a lot of help from family, to get out of Germany just ahead of the Gestapo.
There are coincidences in life. That’s a recognizable fact. There are multiplicities of events going on in the lives of those around us. Another accepted fact. Too much activity and too many coincidental happenings might cause an undercover agent to become seriously paranoid. If this novel were not so well written, so replete with high emotion, if the main character was other than a bright, independent accomplished woman of the nineteen forties, I might have set the novel down unfinished. As it is, His Majesty’s Hope is better than three, but doesn’t rate a four star review.
Reviewed by Carl Brookins, March 2014.
Author of Red Sky, Devils Island, Hard Cheese, Reunion.