The Hollywood Spy
reviewed by Linda Baker
The tenth book in the Maggie Hope series takes Maggie back to the United States, her native land. Not the Massachusetts of her youth, but sunny Hollywood, CA. She has come at the behest of Flight Commander John Sterling, her former fiancé.
John can no longer fly, but the British Government has sent him to work at the Disney Studios in the propaganda film wing. While in Hollywood, he met a young woman named Gloria Hutton, fell in love, and broke the engagement. The young woman drowned in a swimming pool at the famous Garden of Allah Hotel. The death was declared an accident, but John is confident that it was murder. Who better to investigate than Maggie? Maggie is understandably somewhat reluctant, but when her ballerina friend, Sarah Sanderson, gets a job making a film with the famous George Balanchine, she decides to go.
Maggie arrives in Hollywood and sees an America that she never expected. Far from the united front she expected, Los Angeles is a hotbed of racism and segregation like in the Jim Crow South: if not in law but fact. Organizations like the German-American Bund and the KKK have gone underground after Pearl Harbor, but they are still active and plotting. The American Nazi Party is alive and well. Maggie’s first day in 1943 Hollywood sees the first of the Zoot-Suit Riots; when American service members face off with Hispanic Angelinos. As Maggie and John investigate Gloria’s death, it appears that she might be involved in all the seething politics. The notoriously corrupt LAPD has no interest in what they find, except for one honest cop.
The Hollywood Spy is intensely atmospheric, hot and sultry, and full of secrets. I learned so many things that I had not known or of which I was only dimly aware. MacNeal does meticulous research, as witnessed by her sources at the end of the book. She used the word “surreal” to describe the similarities of the societal problems of 1943 and what we are facing today. I can’t agree more with that assessment. I highly recommend The Hollywood Spy, both as crime fiction and a fast-paced mystery.