The Prisoner in the Castle

The Prisoner in the Castle

by Susan Elia MacNeal


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A series of baffling murders among a group of imprisoned agents threatens the outcome of World War II in this chilling mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of Mr. Churchill’s Secretary.

November, 1942. World War II is raging, and former spy Maggie Hope knows too much: what the British government is willing to do to keep its secrets, who is lying, who the double-crossers are. She knows exactly who is sending agents to their deaths. These are the reasons Maggie is isolated on a remote Scottish island, in a prison known as Killoch Castle. When one of her fellow inmates drops dead in the middle of his after-dinner drink—he’s only the first. As victims fall one by one, Maggie will have to call upon all her wits and skills to escape—not just certain death . . . but certain murder. For what’s the most important thing that Maggie Hope knows? She must survive.

Praise for The Prisoner in the Castle

“The colonel sums it up best on page ten: ‘If you take a pretty girl and teach her how to kill, it can cause problems.’ Not just problems—electrifying action and nonstop surprises. I loved this book!”—R. L. Stine, author of the Goosebumps and Fear Street series

“Another literary tour de force . . . From the book’s perfectly calibrated plot to its incisively etched characters, everything is handled with perfect finesse by the author.”Poisoned Pen Newsletter

“One pleasure of a mystery series is connecting with a character that changes and grows with each novel. . . . Maggie’s intelligence and loyalty to the war effort continue to evolve in [Susan Elia] MacNeal’s series. . . . Solid twists keep the plot of The Prisoner in the Castle churning until the surprise finale.”—Associated Press

“A mystery . . . tailor-made for readers in the post-election, #MeToo era. . . . If you love a tricky puzzle that requires you to keep track of multiple alibis over time, this is your summer read.”The Washington Post

“Evocative.”Publishers Weekly

“MacNeal uses [Agatha] Christie’s And Then There Were None as a framework for a character-driven mystery/thriller that successfully emulates the original.”Kirkus Reviews

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780525621096
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/30/2019
Series: Maggie Hope Series , #8
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 19,925
Product dimensions: 5.12(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.68(d)

About the Author

Susan Elia MacNeal is the New York Times bestselling author of the Maggie Hope mysteries. MacNeal won the Barry Award and has been nominated for the Edgar, Macavity, Agatha, Left Coast Crime, Dilys, and ITW Thriller awards. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and son.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

“It’s dark so early these days,” said Maggie Hope, staring out locked windows at the lengthening shadows.

It wasn’t yet four o’clock, but daylight in the highlands of Scotland was only grudgingly cast out before it was reeled back in again. The November sun was setting, touching the black and bulky hills of the island with glimmers of gold. Outside the oriel windows, Maggie could see past brittle old apple trees to a flock of geese that had settled in an empty field. Beyond lay the ocean. “Six hours of daylight’s a meager ration. But then, we’re used to rationing now.”

From across a mahogany desk the size of a small boat, Dr. Charles Jaeger permitted himself a smile. He pressed his palms together, his long fingers tapered and elegant. Maggie had met many, many pale older British men since she’d moved from Boston to London in 1937, but Jaeger was colorless almost to the point of being invisible—­his hair and eyebrows white, his face ashen, his eyes bleached blue. The doctor looked more like an ascetic saint carved from marble than a flesh-­and-­blood man. “You’re always gazing outside, Miss Hope,” he remarked in a low, sonorous voice, sounding amused.

In the late afternoon light, the sea was a glittering spearmint green. It stretched to the horizon, no land visible, an endless ­expanse of rippling water, tipped by white-­capped waves. “Looking for an escape, I suppose.” Maggie was a slim twenty-­seven-­year-­old woman with thick coppery hair pulled back neatly into a low bun. She put down her knitting needles and the navy sock she was working on—­socks for soldiers, each with Morse code V for Victory knit in.

“Watching the play of light on the water has been one of my comforts here—­I wish I could draw or paint it. The ocean’s huge, deep, and powerful, but we only see the surface. The secret is what lies beneath, isn’t it?”

“And what do you think lurks below the surface, Miss Hope?” The doctor was backlit by the setting sun, a dark silhouette against citrine.

Foreboding crept over her, making the hairs on the back of her neck rise. We’re at war. The enemy always might be closer than we think. “U-­boats, most likely. Wolf packs of them.”

“I don’t mean literally.”

“Well then, who knows?” Maggie turned her gaze back to him. “Salmon, before they make their way back up the rivers and streams to spawn? Sunken pirate ships? Monsters, mermaids—­they call them selkies here, don’t they? The Blue Men of the Mich?” Maggie had learned from the castle’s housekeeper that the Blue Men, also called storm kelpies, were a race of sea devils believed to live in the waters of the Hebrides. “The sea’s always a mystery, isn’t it?”

She sat across the desk from him in a red-­leather club chair, noting a shadow box of pinned butterflies hanging on the opposite wall. “And what would your Freud say about the ocean, Doctor?”

Dr. Jaeger was a psychologist who visited Forbidden Island once a month. A fisherman named Broden MacLean brought him on his small boat, along with food, supplies, and fresh laundry. The doctor’s job was to monitor the physical and mental health of the prisoners—­“the trainees,” as they were euphemistically called. He was always immaculate, his Jermyn Street suits well pressed, his crisp white shirts giving the impression he could perform surgery at any moment. Dr. Jaeger met with each prisoner in the castle’s library, a chilly, wood-­paneled space redolent of beeswax polish, cigarette smoke, and dry rot, with glass-­fronted bookcases and dark mahogany panels that stretched up to a plaster-­medallioned ceiling. A reproduction of the English artist Sir Edwin Landseer’s The Sanctuary hung over the fireplace’s mantel—­a painting of a wounded deer who had swum to an island, a momentary place of refuge from the violence of the hunt. In profile, the animal’s large dark eye looked both accusing and sad.

Even though it was a library, the books looked to have been bought for display purposes only. The few tooled leather-­bound tomes that looked read were on hunting and fishing: James Watson Lyall’s Sportsman’s and Tourist’s Guide to the Rivers, Lochs, Moors and Deer Forests of Scotland, Izaak Walton’s The Compleat Angler, and the like. They were flanked by a selection of Sir Walter Scott novels, while H. G. Wells’s The Island of Doctor Moreau kept company next to a set of Agatha Christie mysteries.

The bloodcurdling howl of a passing Manx shearwater startled them both. The black and white birds were everywhere on the island, living on top of the rocky peaks of the eroded volcano, their loud screams wild and eerie. As the bird dove, like a Spitfire attacking a U-­boat, the doctor scribbled something in his notebook, then glanced up. “I’m more of a Jung disciple myself,” he told her, “and he had quite a bit to say regarding the ocean and the unconscious.”

“I’m sure.” Maggie gazed through a sunbeam thick with dust motes to the calendar on the desk—­the date was November 12, 1942. Her last memory of being in London was June 22. One hundred and forty-­three days had passed since she’d been brought, against her will, to Forbidden Island. For more than twenty weeks, nearly five months, she’d been held prisoner in the island’s castle, unable to help the war effort, prohibited from letting her friends and family know she was safe. The inmates were completely sequestered. No phone calls were allowed. No letters could be sent or received. No radio communication was permitted. Beyond the castle, there was nowhere to go on the island—­no town, no village, only uninhabited woods and lochs.

Forbidden Island, really the Isle of Scarra, located just off the western coast of Scotland, was a remote overgrown wilderness of three square miles, with moors, forests, craggy inlets, and shining sands. Golden eagles soared overhead and red deer wandered under the pines. There were no boats, of course—­beyond the one that visited once a month—­but even if there were, the island was surrounded by whirlpools, rendering passage treacherous at best.

Maggie and her fellow prisoners were housed in what had once been a shooting lodge, an improbably ugly structure called Killoch Castle, with long, unconvincing battlements and graceless corner turrets. The “castle” was a lumbering reification of Victorian and Edwardian excess, a florid fantasy of a medieval manse built as a private residence in 1900 for Sir Marcus Killoch, a textile tycoon from Lancashire. Sir Marcus had designed the structure in a castellated Tudor style, using blood-­red sandstone shipped over from Annan at great expense. It had its own electricity supply, as well as modern plumbing and heating.

In its day, the castle had been infamous for luxury and excess. It boasted a Japanese garden, a maze, a bowling green, and a golf course—­all created using topsoil imported from Ayrshire. A glass greenhouse had once housed tropical plants and flowers, as well as hummingbirds, turtles, and alligators, while the hunting hounds slept in a heated kennel. There was even a small stone cottage on the side of the mountain, a hermitage for a resident hermit, who would dispense wisdom to any inquiring guests. When Marcus Killoch died in 1922, he’d left no heirs. And when the war had broken out, the abandoned castle was taken over by the British government.

Maggie hated Killoch Castle. She thought it one of the most loathsome buildings she’d ever seen, a monument to colossal ego, bad taste, and greed. In her opinion, Marcus Killoch was the worst kind of nouveau riche Englishman, who played at being an island laird with his toy castle, rifles, and hunting trophies.

Dr. Jaeger remained silent, pen poised over paper. Maggie understood what he was doing; his prolonged silence was a technique, designed to make her talk. She recognized it from her spy training with the SOE. Still, she knew she could outlast him; he had nothing on the Gestapo interrogator she’d encountered in Paris.

Without compromising his ramrod posture, Dr. Jaeger tilted his head, face blank as a Lewis stone. “This is your fifth session, Miss Hope. And you haven’t revealed anything yet. Anything of real import, that is.”

“I like the peace in the library, Doctor. It’s an excellent place to think.” She picked up her half-­finished sock. “And to knit. Since I can’t be an SOE agent anymore—­or do anything to help the war effort, really—­the least I can do is help keep our soldiers’ feet warm.”

“You’re not alone, Miss Hope. Most agents brought to the island rankle at even the idea of mandated therapy.”

“Well, not me. I know you’re just doing your job. So, let’s make this simple. When you realize I really and truly won’t talk—­at least not about what those in the British Intelligence fear I might let slip—­you’ll release me. And I’ll go back to regular life.” She smiled. “And since I’ll never talk, you might as well let me go now.”

“Ah, Miss Hope.” He raised his eyebrows. “I’m afraid it’s not that easy. And even if it were, I don’t have the authority to release you, or anyone.”

Maggie’s needles stopped midpurl. “Tell me what I need to do. To get out of this place. To leave this moldering castle and get off this island. Who can you talk to? Colonel Martens? Tell him I won’t say anything. And I never will. I signed the Official Secrets Act.”

She had once been part of a mission greater than herself, and now she missed it desperately. There was a war going on, a global war determining if people lived in freedom or died in slavery, and she wanted to do her bit. Something. Anything. Because without victory there would be no survival, for her or anyone she loved. “I’m no good to anyone locked away here. All the trouble His Majesty’s government went through to train me, just wasted.”

Maggie had been brought to Forbidden Island because she’d been asked by Colonel Martens to participate in a lie she’d felt was reprehensible. It wasn’t lost on her that she’d been asked, and refused, only days after escaping from Gestapo custody in Nazi-­occupied Paris, a costly disaster both professionally and personally. And yet . . .

The question still tormented Maggie, even after time on the island to think. How desperate must a situation be for a certain action to be acceptable in war? How heinous must a course of action become before people decide a line has been crossed? And was it forgivable in the fight against an evil as pernicious as Nazism? Does the end ever justify the tainted means?

“Miss Hope, when you were first here, you didn’t speak for weeks.”

“I—­I had nothing to say.”

“You stayed in bed.”

“I was tired. That mission to Paris was exhausting.”

“You threw things at the nurse. A vase of flowers, if I recall.”

“I threw the vase at the wall, not the nurse,” she clarified, resuming her knitting. “The flowers annoyed me. So very . . . cheerful. I loathe marigolds.”

“So you do remember the first weeks you were here.”

“Some of it,” Maggie admitted.

“Do you remember we had to sedate you? And, one night, straitjacket you?”

“No!” Maggie had recollections of slipping through the cracks of sanity and going under, but she wasn’t about to discuss them. Then, calmer: “No, I don’t recall.”

“Do you remember why you were brought here?”

Yes, I do—­but you’re daft if you think I’ll tell you.

“You were in F-­Section,” Dr. Jaeger prodded. “What went wrong in Paris?”

Maggie wasn’t about to take the bait. “It’s cold today, isn’t it?” She set down the sock and buttoned up her heavy wool cardigan.

“You’re changing the subject.”

“As you well know, Doctor, I never discuss war-­related information—­with anyone.”

Dr. Jaeger gave a wry smile. “I can see you’re still suspicious. And I understand why.”

“I’m under house arrest. Whatever I say to you, you’ll undoubtedly relay to them.”

“And who is them?”

“Colonel Henrik Martens, Churchill’s so-­called Master of Deception. Colonel Bishop with MI-­Six. And whoever else they’re working with. The people in charge of . . .”

“Of what, Maggie?”

F-­Section. Agents going missing in France. A compromised network in Paris. A double, maybe triple agent. The secret of Pas-­de-­Calais and Normandy and the invasion of occupied Europe. “You know I can’t say. And how much longer will I be imprisoned here?”

“And I can’t tell you that, I’m afraid.”

“Look,” she stated, “I’ll talk about myself, but not my work for SOE. Is that a worthy compromise?” She raised an eyebrow. “Besides, have you read my file?”

The doctor leaned back in his chair. “It’s a page-­turner.”

Maggie gave a single sharp laugh. “Tell me about it—­I lived it. And whatever they want you to know about me is in there. You don’t need me to share anything more.”

“I want to help you, Miss Hope. Will you let me?”

“I’m fine, Doctor. Just not sleeping. It’s been months and months and I can’t sleep.”

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The Prisoner in the Castle (Signed Book) (Maggie Hope Series #8) 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 reviews.
Anonymous 3 months ago
These books are well written and researched! I really enjoyed the fictional character living among the historic players in WWII. I picked up book 7 at Barnes and Nobel one day and I was hooked. I highly recommend these books they are educational and very entertaining.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Trapped on an island with other SOE agents, Maggie has to identify a German spy. Lots of red herrings!
Anonymous 5 months ago
With echoes of Agatha Christie and lashings of dark intrigue, Susan Elia MacNeal skillfully spins a tale of espionage and murder during World War II.
bookchickdi More than 1 year ago
Susan Elia MacNeal’s eighth book in her Maggie Hope WWII series, The Prisoner in the Castle is an homage to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. Maggie Hope, a British spy whose last assignment was in France for Britain’s SOE, now resides in a deserted castle on a Scottish island with other British spies. No one but a few government officials know where they are or why. When a dead body turns up, the spies are concerned, and that concern turns to fear when one by one the residents of the castle are murdered. Maggie teams up with Sayid, an attractive doctor, to figure out what is going on and to try and stay alive. The problem they all have is knowing whom to trust. They are all spies, trained to gain the trust of people and then betray that trust. MacNeal does a great deal of research for her books, and if you close your eyes, you’d swear that you are right there in the castle, on that island. There is an incredibly tense scene near the end, with Maggie’s life in danger, that will have your heart pounding as you turn the pages.
C_Fowler More than 1 year ago
Where have Maggie Hope and Susan Elia MacNeal been my whole life, and why haven't I picked up one of these Maggie Hope mysteries before? This eighth installment in the series drew me in from the very first page and kept me reading until late at night. I was transported to the beautiful and yet sinister Scottish Isle of Scarra in the midst of World War II, where British spies with too many war secrets were sent to wait out the war. Maggie is a remarkable heroine, and this book had such an intriguing cast of characters and mystery that I had a difficult time, like Maggie, determining just who could be trusted until the very end of the book. The Prisoner in the Castle is, without doubt, the best book I have read this year, and Susan Elia MacNeal is an extremely talented writer. I recommend this book without hesitation, and although it can definitely stand on its own, I can't wait to start reading this series from the beginning. I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are solely my own.
CheliD More than 1 year ago
Maggie Hope knows too much about the plans of the Allied forces so she is being held on a remote Scottish island with other agents that also know too much. Little do they know that their ranks have been infiltrated by a German spy and that one by one this spy is killing them off while waiting to be pickup by a German U boat. Who is, how will they all protect themselves, will they survive until help comes? Fascinating change of pace for the series. Lots of plot twists and character changes. Loved it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Maggie just gets better with each adventure.
Dismas More than 1 year ago
The copy I have is a pre-release copy, which as I understand it has no strings attached. The Prisoner in The Castle by Susan Elia MacNeal is a book set in Great Britain on an Island off the coast of Scotland; it is about the life of a number of special agents from various services of Britain and the events they went through in a time during World War Two. It’s a good and well written book, which held my attention from the first page. Apparently it is a novel that is a part of a series that the author has written focused on the main person of the story Maggie Hope; it is an historical fiction novel. This is the first of her books that I have read; but I’ll be looking for others as she writes them and go back to those she has already completed. I really like the book and highly recommend it; I’m reading history right now so an historical novel about WWII was a good way to take a break from actual history books. The characters are all interesting; and the plot seemed to me to develop well but not give away the ending so it was fun to read.
nhr3bookcrazyNR More than 1 year ago
Love the Maggie Hope series! I tore through this story, turning the pages as quickly as I could. I totally didn't expect the circumstances in which we find Maggie in this book. But, as always, I loved the Maggie character. The bad news is that I read it so quickly and now must wait for the next book in the series. Please hurry, Ms. MacNeal!
teachlz More than 1 year ago
My Review of “The Prisoner in the Castle” by Susan Elia MacNeal, Random House Publishing Group, Ballantine, August 7, 2018 Susan Elia MacNeal, Author of “The Prisoner in the Castle” has written an intriguing, captivating, suspenseful, riveting novel. The Genres for this Novel are Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, with a touch of Historical Fiction. This is the eighth Maggie Hope novel in the mystery series, but can be read as a stand alone. The author describes her colorful cast of characters as complicated and complex. Can you imagine that our Heroine Maggie Hope is imprisoned on a secret island, with other agents for knowing too much information? The powers that be are afraid that certain agents can change the course of World War Two by having too much information, and the solution seems to be to imprison them. Unfortunately one or more of these prisoners is a cold-blooded killer and possibly a spy. The name of the game for Maggie Hope is to survive, and somehow find help. But who can she trust? All the characters are seem suspect in one way and another, and her loved ones don’t know where she is. I highly recommend this novel for those readers that like a tense, and suspenseful story. I received an ARC from NetGalley for my honest review.
SherreyM More than 1 year ago
Through personal oversight, I didn’t realize that The Prisoner in the Castle was part of a series. Obviously, I’d never read any of Susan Elia MacNeal’s other books or others in the series about Maggie Hope. However, I can say I don’t think I missed too much as I found this a thrilling mystery and was hooked from the beginning. Approximately nine or ten agents capable of killing another human being with his or her hands have been sent to a remote Scottish island. MacNeal’s descriptive language paints for her readers a dreary, edgy landscape for the castle where these agents are held. True to the geographic area, the weather is stormy and blustery creating the right atmosphere for a dark tale of murders and suspicious minds. Everyone at the castle thinks he or she knows who the killer is and yet as the story unfolds no one seems to be correct. I enjoyed this development as it keeps the reader guessing as well as to who the guilty party might be. Perhaps MacNeal’s winning part of her craft is the development of her characters. Consider the number of characters in The Prisoner in the Castle. That’s a lot of characters to draw for your readers. MacNeal provides a rare set of characters who all, at one time or another, fear or hate someone else in the castle. Personalities are sharply contrasted to one another, and personal preferences are quite idiosyncratic. My Recommendation: There is no doubt I will be going back to read Books 1-7 of the Maggie Hope series, and I’m looking forward to the next installment already. If you love a good mystery set across the pond, check out Susan Elia MacNeal’s writing, especially the Maggie Hope mysteries.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Maggie Hope never disappoints
Etain More than 1 year ago
The Prisoner in the Castle is in the Maggie Hope series, and the first one I have read. It certainly won't be the last! MacNeal's descriptive writing puts you on the island, in the castle with all the smells, weather, and tension of this story. A perfect, albeit harrowing, escape to Scotland. Everyone looks guilty, except Maggie. The reveal is done in a 'perfect storm' fashion, and even with all the clues is a surprise!
DanieleK More than 1 year ago
THE PRISONER IN THE CASTLE, the eighth installment in the excellent Maggie Hope Mystery Series, is a worthy homage to Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, and it deviates enough from the original work to stand on its own merits. Maggie Hope finds herself virtually imprisoned, though a somewhat comfortable prison, with other SEO agents who know too much, on an island off the west coast of Scotland. They are expected to ride out the rest of the war isolated, determined to be a danger to British national security and the greater war effort. When the commanding officer suddenly dies, everyone assumes it is of natural causes. Even when an “inmate” also dies shortly thereafter, it is not obvious that it is foul play. That is, until the body count continues to rise. In a castle full of secret agents, all trained to kill, who could possibly be behind the murders? Maggie and the other agents find themselves walking on eggshells waiting for the next offense to occur. As the tally rises, the danger is palpable, and Maggie does what she can to get to the bottom of things. Even though Maggie is not on the front lines of WWII in this installment, there is more than enough danger and plenty of intrigue to make a compelling read. There are a few clues, red herrings, and unexpected twists along the way to keep readers guessing. I do, however, wish there had been more active investigating for Maggie to do. Most of the information she came across seemed to be by accident. The agents are all interesting in their own rights, and I enjoyed learning a bit of their back stories as the story progresses. The plot moves along a steady pace, and the writing is descriptive and clean. I greatly enjoyed my time with Maggie and look forward to many more adventures with her. I received an ARC of this title through NetGalley from the publisher and voluntarily shared my thoughts here.
MugsyMae More than 1 year ago
The Prisoner in the Castle is a great spy thriller/murder mystery. The characters are, for the most part, quirky egocentric spies who have been derailed to the "cooler" during WWII. Maggie Hope seems like one of the few who can "stay calm and carry on." The story kept me on edge with lots of false starts and accusations, and interested with new information to apply at each turn. I really enjoyed it! This is the first book I have read by Susan Elia MacNeal, and I will definitely be reading the other Maggie Hope mysteries!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"The Prisoner in the Castle," in many ways, is a nice revamp of Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None" - Seclusion of few secret agents on an isolated island, the inhabitants are being murdered, their fear and the will to stop the killing and so forth. The only difference between the two books, plot wise, is the culprit in "The Prisoner in the Castle" was punished and the heroin survived. Bottom line, "The Prisoner in the Castle" is just as enjoyable as "And Then There Were None." Susan Elia MacNeal crafted a story that is based on a classic yet it stands out on its own. The vibe and the voice were strong by bringing the historical and political elements into the story. I thought the story was simply a good copycat at the beginning. As the plot progressed, however, the copycat I saw no more but noticed a great and engaging wartime mystery. Pacey, well written, suspenseful and even spooky sometimes, I have had a great time reading "The Prisoner in the Castle." It definitely could be read as a standalone. I encountered no confusion without reading any precedent books in the series.
Boohimdanno More than 1 year ago
A very interesting concept for a mystery. A group of highly trained agents (all capable of murder with their bare hands) being restricted to a remote Scottish island without any communication with the outside world. When they start being murdered, and dropping like flies, suspicion and mistrust abound amoung the survivors. Can Maggie Hope (also being detained) solve the mystery and survive? The book must be read to determine the outcome. I have rated this book 4 stars I received an ARC from Netgalley for my unbiased review. Thank you Frank for the Review!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
*Thanks to Netgalley, the publisher, and the author for providing me with an early copy in exchange for an honest review.* 2.5 stars The Story~It's basically a reimagining of And Then There Were None. It's even mentioned in the book. It felt very long and meandering at times. Maybe it's because I haven't read any of the previous books and didn't have enough invested for it to feel quick and intense. The culmination didn't fit the otherwise slow build and was simple yet too complex to be fully believable. And we never found out how the killer did it or anything. There was a side plot involving the island's history which didn't serve any real purpose to the murder plot. It could've been left out or made more vague so it remained a mystery at the end. I felt the need to finish not because it was so good, but because I have other books clogging my brain and I had to get this one out of the way first. It started with such promise too. The Characters~Having not read any of the other books I found it hard to keep everyone straight, especially all the people in the government. Maggie, while praised as a strong and brave woman in almost all the other reviews, came across as weak and indecisive. She had moments of mental strength at the end, but until that point she couldn't decide who to trust and never rationalized out who it could be. I expected her to do stuff to further the investigation and it never came. Most of the characters were timid and unresponsive to the threat. I thought they'd been trained to have backbone and guts and take action with a clear head. They were defined by a couple traits and since most of them died off fairly quickly I never got to know them. And as a result, I didn't care if they died or not. I know it's hard to juggle so many people in such a short time and with this plot, but I wish it'd been handled better. I also didn't care about anyone else, with the possible exception of Durgin. The Description and Dialogue~The weather was integral to the plot and yet I didn't feel fully immersed in the landscape. I don't know if it's because it's in the nineties where I am or if the writing was poor. Some of the dialogue seemed a bit modern and none of it was memorable. Overall I expected more sleuthing and less bumbling around and fortifying oneself with alcohol and tea. It should have been shorter with more time devoted to the ending. I don't think I'll go back to the beginning or continue with the series.
Jnnlbrd More than 1 year ago
The Prisioner in the Castle is the eighth and latest installment in the Maggie Hope series and author Susan Elia MacNeal has given us a compelling, captivating and cerebral tale. World War II British secret agent, Maggie Hope, finds herself banished to the remote Scottish island, Scarra, with other SOE agents. MacNeal’s attention to detail in her description of the remote island and the castle that Maggie and the others inhabit is superb and fascinating. She gives the reader a real feel of what each one of the spies is feeling on the island. What sets this book apart from the previous books is MacNeals use of the plot from Agatha Christie’s classic novel, “And Then There Were None”, as a way of eliminating characters one by one. Maggie finds herself in a race against time to save herself and others on the remote island from a murderer. Maggie must use all the skills and tools in her arsenal to outsmart a treacherous individual out to due harm to others as well as potentially changing the course of the war. While there are references to past stories and characters, Prisioner in the Castle, is enjoyable and certainly entertaining as a stand-alone book, though you may find yourself enticed to go back and read the previous books in the series. The Prisioner in the Castle will leave you anxious for the next Maggie Hope adventure. I received an advance copy of this book from Netgalley. My review of the book is unbiased. #netgalley #theprisionerinthecastle
anneinaz More than 1 year ago
"The Prisoner in the Castle" by Susan Elia Macneal is book number 8 in the Maggie Hope series, which is centered on Mr. Churchill and England during World War II. It is the first of this series I have read but I intend to remedy that situation. Maggie works for various British intelligence agencies, apparently personnel transfers around. In this case she finds herself on a remote Scottish island living in a hunting lodge with a commander and fewer than a dozen prisoners as well as three caretakers. She has been sent into isolation but she is not certain the reason. All she knows is she takes her oath seriously and share no part of her professional life, even with the psychiatrist who visits one a month. No outside contact is allowed-family and friends are simply told "...on a mission." People start dying. At first it is unclear if it is by accident or ill health but it quickly becomes obvious it is murder. Macneal's story is kind of homage to Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None," a type of locked room the case an isolated island mystery. Frightening things happen as people start to suspect one another. Surprises are around every turn. A truly enjoyable wartime mystery enticing one to suspect even their own government, as common theme these days, sadly. Maggie is a strong character who displays professionalism, common sense, and an empathetic heart. She relates to other characters no matter their lots in life and deals with them in the kindest possible ways. Quite a good book. I recommend it to anyone who loves mystery, historical mystery, or Agatha Christie. I was given a free ARC of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. #netgalley
Dmaxtownsend More than 1 year ago
Just who is the Prisoner in the castle? Is it Maggie Hope who is sidelined from her wartime role on an isolated Scottish isle with fellow prisoners deemed dangerous to the cause by those in charge? Or is it the murderer who has been daily killing them off? Or the mysterious ghost who, having killed a dozen men, haunts the castle? Or a possible Nazi spy cleverly hidden amongst them? This latest Maggie Hope mystery is not at all what I expected. And I don’t mean this in a bad way. We have all the intrigue, heroics, and the elegant mystery we expect from this author, believe me. The setting Maggie finds herself in, an abandoned castle with other political prisoners is wildly different and so engaging, and based on an actual WWII scenario. MacNeal’s research is extensive; her ability to bring her stories to life among this rich, yet frightening historical background continues to amaze me. I took pause at one sentence in particular which traced the path of a Nazi spy’s message; how many hours of research went in to that one sentence? You’ll also find a bit of a homage to Agatha Christie which tickled me as well. Read this one! Figure out who the Prisoner is. And then impatiently away Maggie Hope’s next adventure. I just love this series!
Rhonda-Runner1 More than 1 year ago
I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This is an Agatha Christy type murder mystery set off the coast of Scotland during World War II where British SOE agents are being kept against their will in Killoch Castle. This is my first Maggie Hope mystery series book and the eighth in this series. I don't usually read this type of book but it was well written and full of mystery and suspense. I did enjoy reading it and probably would have enjoyed it more had I read the previous seven books.
JeanK More than 1 year ago
I would like to thank Random House and NetGalley for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The Prisoner in the Castle is the latest entry in Susan Elia MacNeal’s Maggie Hope World War II mysteries. Maggie finds herself a prisoner at Killoch Castle on a remote Scottish island simply because she knows too much about the future invasion and intelligence activities. Her fellow prisoners were all working for the intelligence service in some capacity, imprisoned for the duration of the war and possibly beyond. Their routine lives are changed when one of the prisoners dies shortly after dinner, the victim of poison. A weekly supply boat is found drifting off shore and out of gas with the captain also poisoned. With no way off the island, it is Maggie who radios for assistance and uses her skills as an investigator to try and find the killer. However, severe weather causes delays in any assistance. In London, a murder trial’s outcome depends on Maggie’s testimony. As the only surviving witness it is crucial that she appear, yet Intelligence refuses to disclose her location. It is up to DCI Durgin and Peter Frain, working for Churchill, to discover the existence of Killoch Castle. If you are unfamiliar with this wonderful series, this is a perfect place to start. MacNeal provides enough background to acquaint the reader with her characters. As additional murders occur there is a suspicion that a German agent may be hiding on the island, leading to a fast-moving and surprising climax. This is Maggie at her best and if you are a fan of Christie’s And Then There Were None, you will be thrilled by MacNeal’s The Prisoner in the Castle.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This feels like It is a nod to the "murder on an island" that Agatha Christie did so well. Maggie has to figure out who is killing everyone before she’s next. Everyone on this island is a spy with their own secrets so who can she really trust. It's a great mystery, a who done it that absolutely works! While you don't have to read the other books in the series. I would suggest you do. It just gets better and better. Yea Maggie!!