M Reviews: Above Suspicion

Above Suspicion, Helen MacInnes’s 1941 spy novel, tells the story of Richard Myles, an Oxford professor, and his wife Frances, who have been asked by an old friend to carry out a secret mission during their annual European holiday. Their job is to locate an English agent and find out whether or not he has been compromised by the Nazis. Since Richard and Frances will be posing as harmless tourists, it is believed they will be “above suspicion,” but it is pre-war Europe and nothing, Richard and Frances soon discover, is what it seems. Above Suspicion perfectly captures the mood of the time; the feeling that war in Europe was imminent; and the fear that England would not fight and would settle for appeasement. The novel’s feeling of authenticity is due, in large part, to the diary MacInnes kept during her 1932 Bavarian honeymoon during which she wrote about the Nazi menace and the examples of Nazi violence she and her husband witnessed. While Above Suspicion may begin slowly, Helen MacInnes carefully builds up the novel’s tension by gradually placing Richard and Frances farther and farther from the safety of their home.  Above Suspicion is the perfect book for those who enjoy reading stories, not unlike those of Agatha Christie, which lack the gratuitous sex, violence, and emotional hysterics of chronically damaged characters. It is a straightforward spy novel that does a masterful job building up suspense. Helen MacInnes’s Above Suspicion comes highly recommended.

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