A fast-paced, enjoyable read set in WWII London is Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal. The rich period detail is a particular strength in this character-driven spy novel. The plot centers around Maggie Hope, a British woman raised in America after her parent’s untimely death. Now living in London with various roommates in her deceased aunt’s crumbling mansion, she finds herself working in the War Rooms after a previous secretary is murdered. Her gender limits her to a typist’s job, but her skills at code breaking lead her to discover a murderous plot, while she also discovers hidden family secrets. Fans of Jaqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series may enjoy this.
Another historical novel with spies and intrigue is Graham Moore’s The Last Days of Night. Short chapters really move the plot along in this story based on fact set in the late 1880s, the beginning of the electric age. Paul Cravath is a young, inexperienced lawyer hired by George Westinghouse, who is being sued by Thomas Edison over a patent for the light bulb. With all the power and money behind Edison, it seems like a nearly impossible case to win. Other intriguing characters thrown into the mix are the eccentric Serbian immigrant Nikola Tesla and the beautiful opera star Agnes Huntington. In short, nothing is quite as straightforward as first appears.
Set in both the past and present, Octavia Butler’s Kindred is a sobering science fiction book involving time travel. Dana, a contemporary African-American woman, one day finds herself suddenly in antebellum Maryland, where she saves a young boy, Rufus, from drowning. Just as suddenly, she is back in California. Over a period of time, Dana is called back various times, and each time Rufus is older and in more serious trouble. However, what seems like hours in the past is only minutes in the present, and years in the past are hours in the present. Again, this is a plot-driven book that also deals with social justice as the atrocities of slavery are dealt with. This may be a good choice for fans of Doomsday Book by Connie Willis.