I've been re-reading all my Helen MacInnes spy thrillers, beginning with the very earliest, published in 1941. This author has a way of weaving ordinary characters into history, helping us see events like World War II the way it was experienced by those who were slammed by it. It was a time of great wrongs and savageries, but it was also a time of courage and honor. Yes, there's danger, and action, and lots of plotting in between. Her political sense is astute, believable, and even prescient. Even though, at the time, MacInnes lived in New York, she had a deep understanding of the situation in Europe. This was partly due to what she had observed and experienced first hand as she and her college professor husband traveled extensively throughout Europe in the years leading up to the war. It was also due to her husband's involvement with the British Intelligence Center in New York. A brilliant scholar himself, he encouraged his wife to write and supported her almost instant successes.
After the war there were other intrigues to chronicle. I've followed MacInnes through The Communist takeover of Eastern Europe, the Cold War, and the stirrings of a New World Order based on finance and funded by sordid drug cartels. It always leaves me wondering if her later research and writing will prove as prophetic as the first.
MacInnes's first novel, Above Suspicion, was set in 1939, It follows the adventures of a college professor and his wife as they are asked to add a little intrigue to what they feel may be their last vacation in Europe before the war breaks out. Their job is simple: follow a path from one embedded contact to another and make sure there is a reliable message chain in order, that the Allied information "at the top" has not been compromised. I started it before I went to sleep last Friday night, and finished it...well before I went to sleep last Friday night...or was it early Saturday morning. I don't know. It was just hard to put down until it was over--all that suspense.
And in addition to that, there's an appreciation of integrity, of character in her heroes. I find myself re-reading sentences like these:
"There's nothing like self-pity for thoroughly dissipating a man, and when a nation indulges in that luxury, it finds itself with a dictator."
"Courage. Courage. It's the only real weapon we've got. A man can win when he still has his courage."