I first ran into Helen McInnes through the Reader’s Digest Condensed editions thingy, way back when. My mom used to get them handsomely packaged three together. As was typical for me upon discovering a new author, I headed to the library and did some glomming. It was really hard to pick what book to feature today, but I decided on Above Suspicion, because it’s dang good and set during one of my favorite periods: around World War II.
Here’s the official book blurb for Above Suspicion:
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 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.
What I particularly liked about this book was the relationship between Richard and Frances. They are sincerely in love. And they are good people trying to accomplish an increasingly difficult task. While not a traditional romantic suspense novel in which the hero and heroine find and fall in love through the course of the story, it still pushed my romantic suspense buttons.
I read a review about the movie and had to chuckle. So often the issues viewers have with a book-to-movie comes from what had to be left out of the movie. I loved this story and it is one of those books that I revisit every now and again. I revisit this author’s other books periodically, because she knows how to tell a story.
Another movie reviewer called it “war propaganda” and mentioned it made the Nazis really “evil.” I can only surmise that the reviewer was very young and hadn’t heard that the Nazis were actually really evil. It does capture the erosion of freedom that took place right before WWII began, IMHO. And her book Assignment in Brittanny was, according to Widipedia, required reading for Allied intelligence agents being sent to work with the French resistance.
MacInnes started writing at the end of the war, so her writing style is what I’d call classic popular fiction. She uses words. Sometimes she uses big words. And she takes her time telling her story. I learned to love reading from authors like her, so her style is very comfortable to me. She also…had a clear-sighted vision from her war experiences that enabled her to look at events then and see how they might play out in the future. She wrote about terrorism, for instance, long before the US came under direct attack. And her book, Friends and Lovers, is IMHO, prescient about the cold war propaganda and disinformation.
McInnes passed away in 1985, at the age of 78. Her last book (of 22) was published in 1984. I can only hope to write and publish to the end. (And I only have to write 8 more books before then…)
Is there a book from your past that still draws you back for the occasional visit? I love talking books and I love getting comments I can enter into my monthly drawing for an AnaBanana gift basket ($25 value). Winner will be announced the first blog post of the new month.
“…the story is magical, romantic, and funny.” Over My Dead Body Reviews
Out of Time is going into wide release!