Above Suspicion by Helen MacInnes (Throwback Book Review)

This month for our Throwback book we’re diving into Above Suspicion by Helen MacInnes. It is a step back in time with historical characters, spies, a mystery, and a journey around the world.

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Above Suspicion

By Helen MacInnes
Genre: Historical, Thriller

While vacationing in England, two married academics are recruited to search for a missing spy in this bestselling espionage thriller that takes readers into the heart of Nazi Germany just before World War II.
 
Richard and Frances Myles are preparing for their annual European summer vacation in 1939 when they are visited at their Oxford college by old friend Peter Galt, who has a seemingly simple job for them. But in the heightened atmosphere of pre-war Europe, nobody is above suspicion. In fact, it seems the husband and wife are being carefully monitored by shadowy figures . . .

Above Suspicion was MacInnes’ breakthrough book, a bestseller published in 1941 and released as a movie in 1943, directed by Richard Thorpe and starring Joan Crawford and Fred MacMurray.

“Hide and seek with death—in the shadow of terror . . . The hallmarks of a MacInnes novel of suspense are as individual and as clearly stamped as a Hitchcock thriller.” —The New York Times. 

Find it on Goodreads, Amazon, and Bookbub.

Review of Above Suspicion

Above Suspicion, MacInnes’s first novel certainly set the bar high for intrigue and the deadly cat-and-mouse game of counterespionage. A tingling plot that keeps the reader turning the pages, no matter how many times the story has been read. 

In 1939, Europe was on the brink of war. The shadow of Nazism loomed over Great Britain. A university professor and his wife are about to take their annual summer vacation, hiking and exploring favorite locations in other European countries. While troubled about what the future holds from the encroaching Nazi movement, they view the trip as a last chance for a harmless summer vacation. Their vacation becomes anything but harmless. A seemingly innocuous encounter with an old friend pulls Richard and Francis Myles into a deadly intrigue. Under the guise of their summer vacation, they journey along an underground counterespionage trail compromised by German spies. Each step could be their last.

Helen MacInnes has long been one of my favorite authors. I’ve found a depth to her plots that adds a chilling realism. What has especially drawn me to her novels are her characters. They are not heroes; just ordinary people thrust into extraordinary situations where everyday decisions carry deadly consequences. MacInnes has a way of instilling emotion and values that bring the characters to life. 
Above Suspicion speaks of another era that most only knows from history books. The author’s insight into the mindset of the individuals in a world on the brink of war is truly gripping. As history would prove, her words depict the cruelty of the mindless veneration for a man bent on conquering Europe and Great Britain. It’s not surprising considering Helen MacInnes’ background. While many of her books have been republished, there are several which haven’t.

Assignment in Brittany

He stared at the unfamiliar watch on his wrist. Three hours ago he had stood on English soil. Three hours ago he had been Martin Hearne, British Intelligence agent. Now he was in Nazi-occupied Brittany, posing as Bertrand Corlay, with the Frenchman’s life reduced to headings in his memory.

Hearne looked down at the faded uniform which had once been Corlay’s, felt once more for the papers in the inside pocket. He was ready. From now on he was one step away from death…

The Queen of Spy Writers returns in a stunning series collecting all of her greatest works! Titan kicks off with Assignment in Brittany; the gripping tale of an undercover operative deep in Nazi-occupied France.

Find it on Goodreads, Amazon, and BookBub.

The Unconquerable (While We Still Live)

September 1939 – the last days of Warsaw. The man whose shoulders were bent over the radio suddenly stiffened. The announcer’s voice cut through the sudden silence of the room. “Less than an hour ago German planes bombed Polish territory without any declaration of war…”It had come. 

Find it on Goodreads, Amazon, and BookBub.

About the Author

A Scottish-American writer of espionage novels, Helen MacInnes graduated from the University of Glasgow in Scotland in 1928 with an MA in French and German. MacInnes continued her studies at University College, London, where she received a diploma in librarianship in 1931.[2] 

While working as a librarian, MacInnes met the classics scholar Gilbert Highet. In the early 1930s, MacInnes had collaborated with Highet to translate German literature, which helped finance their summer travels through Europe. These European excursions gave MacInnes exposure to locations that she used later as settings for her espionage thrillers.[3] 

One of MacInnes’ greatest inspirations in writing on foreign affairs and espionage was her honeymoon to the European mainland, Bavaria in particular. As she and Highet witnessed the oppression of the German totalitarian regime, she swore to write against the oppressive forces of the Nazi government. MacInnes even kept notes about the different governments she saw in her travels with Highet that she would refer back to when she began writing full-time. 

She and her husband emigrated to the United States in 1937, when he took an academic position at Columbia University in New York, while retaining his role in the British MI6, for foreign espionage. 

MacInnes wrote 21 espionage thrillers, four of which were later adapted as films.[1] Her early books were set during the Second World War, often featuring lay people who become spies or otherwise caught up in acting on behalf of the Allied war effort. MacInnes became a U.S. citizen in 1952. 

MacInnes’ first novel, Above Suspicion, was published in 1941 and remains one of her most famous works. The plot was loosely tied to her travels with Highet and his work in particular with MI6. It was adapted into a film in 1943 by MGM director Richard Thorpe, and was promoted with the tagline “It happened on a honeymoon,” a parallel between MacInnes and Highet and the Myles couple. 

MacInnes’s second novel, Assignment in Brittany (1942), was made required reading for Allied intelligence agents who were being sent to work with the French resistance against the Nazis. It was featured on the New York Times first fiction bestseller list, in 1942. Her 1944 book, The Unconquerable, gives such an accurate portrayal of the Polish resistance that some reviewers and readers thought she was using classified information given to her by her husband.

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