Mother Daughter Traitor Spy
reviewed by Pam Guynn
Mother Daughter Traitor Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal is a standalone historical fiction spy novel inspired by real people and events. It brings to life the conflicting sentiments that existed in America at the time. One aspect that is unique to this novel is that it is not set in Europe, but instead is set in Los Angeles, California.
Events start in June 1940 with Veronica Grace’s college graduation. When a personal scandal costs her a journalism career opportunity in New York, she and her mother Violet decide to start fresh in California where her Uncle Walter has a summerhouse they can live in rent-free.
Veronica finds a typing job, but then realizes she’s working for vicious propagandists supporting Germany in the war and saying vile things about those that don’t meet their vision of race, religion, and color. After the police and FBI dismiss the Graces’ concerns, they call an old friend of Veronica’s father. He puts them in contact with the local spymaster and they both go underground as spies. As the story progresses through the presidential election, Pearl Harbor, and war being declared on Japan, Germany, and Italy, Veronica and Violet continue to gather information, even as their risk of exposure becomes greater.
Based on a real mother-daughter spy duo, Veronica and Violet are well-developed characters. They seem to be somewhat naïve, but definitely feel a duty to protect democracy and do what is right for the country. Readers can see them grow as events unfold and they face challenges. Veronica finds that many of the qualities that make a good journalist are also good qualities for a spy. Most of the characters in the book are based on real people. There are those that are like Veronica working to save democracy and ensure that America stands for all citizens. Then, there are those that believe in isolationism, some who are violent with hatred and a feeling of superiority, the misguided and gullible, or people simply wanting a purpose and a sense of community.
The story is moving, as well as full of intrigue and suspense. Unfortunately, it also seemed to parallel many sentiments that are occurring in the America today. The first third of the book had a slow pace as the characters and situation unfolded. Once Victoria and Violet agreed to be spies, the danger and the pace increased significantly. The world-building was great and gave a realistic sense of time and place.
Overall, this story is inspiring, well-written, and well-researched and it is a story that will stay with me. While there was fear and hatred, there was also courage, love, and duty. The Afterward, Acknowledgements, and Historical Notes are enlightening. They, along with the sources section show the amount of research the author did to make this novel authentic to the times.
Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Bantam and Susan Elia MacNeal provided a complimentary digital ARC of this novel via NetGalley. This is my honest review. Opinions are mine alone and are not biased in any way. Publication date is currently set for September 20, 2022.