IN SECRET SERVICE

In Secret Service by Mitch Silver.

Apparently this is his first novel, and in my opinion, his inexperience glaringly presents itself in the format of the story. I could tell that he put alot of research into writing this novel and that he came up with some very creative ideas in creating a fictional plot with many twists and turns. Alot of effort was put into the creation of this book. Which is why I can’t understand why he chose the format he did to write the story in. There are two story’s going on at the same time. The overall master story is about the main character, Amy, reading a memoir type letter written to her from Ian Fleming, of James Bond fame, about a secret plot regarding British Royalty and how they were involved with the Nazi’s in World War 2.
The first 3/4 of the book is Amy reading this memoir, with the occasional break about how Amy is getting on the plane, being chased on the plane, and how the person sitting next to her on the plane is murdered, etc. Notice I said occasional breaks, with the majority of the book being Amy reading the manuscript. Although the manuscript is interesting, it is too long winded for its own good. The breaks in Amy reading the script and something else happening were more interesting and exciting than the manuscript. It was almost a chore to read about someone else reading a manuscript. This idea, though creative, was not pulled off very well and could have been presented in a different, more interesting way. But anyway….
After Amy gets off the plane and is almost done reading the manuscript, is when I really started to like the story. There’s quite alot of chase scenes, people getting killed, drama, excitement, love story, etc. I really enjoyed the overall arcing storyline and wished Mr. Silver would have focused more on this storyline than the fictional Ian Fleming story. If I wouldn’t have been reading this book for a book club selection and felt somewhat obligated to finish the book, I probably would have put the book down around page 100. If I would have, I would have missed an exciting ending and wouldn’t have even guessed it was a good ending.
Due to the exciting ending and the cool twist at the end regarding the relationship between the fiance and one of the characters in the manuscript, I am giving this book 7 stars out of 10. With the majority of the stars being earned due to the ending of the book.
Mr. Silver has some potential to produce some good stories in the future and I wish him good luck in his future novels!

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ALIAS GRACE

Grace Marks had a hard life from her humble beginnings, but overcame many trials to become a successful young woman.
The first part of the book spent alot of time talking about life in the time of Grace Marks and I did find that interesting to read about. It was good to read about the ‘innocent’ times in Grace’s life when she was growing up and learning how to be a good servant girl. This added to the tragedy of the story of Grace Marks.
The story turned dark at the happiest moments in Grace’s young life. Her best friend, Mary Whitney, got pregnant and tried to get an abortion in a day and time, where it was a deadly and risky procedure. It turned out to be fatal for Mary Whitney, as she died that night. Grace had an episode where she freaked out and couldn’t remember what she had been doing for the past two days when she came to again. (Can you say foreshadowing?)
From this moment on life was never the same for Grace. She began to bounce around from home to home and job to job. She finally found a good opportunity through Nancy Montgomery to work with a single gentleman, Mr. Kinnear, in his home with Nancy and a stable hand, McDermott. There is a friendly neighborhood boy, Jamie Walsh, who helps out Kinnear too. Upon arriving at the new home, she was introduced to her new duties.
Grace later learns that Nancy and Kinnear are having an affair and later Nancy becomes pregnant. Grace becomes fearful that as in past experiences, Nancy may try to get an abortion like Mary Whitney did.
McDermott is not happy working there and is given notice to leave by Nancy. He plans on killing Nancy and Kinnear just before he is to leave. He gets Grace to go along with the plan, who passively agrees to go along as she is in fear of what McDermott will do to her if she refuses.
This is where the story gets murky and not very definative; in that since in real life, there were multiple accounts as to who killed who and how. Grace claims that she has no memory of the killings, but has memory of what happened immediately before and after the murders.
According to Grace, Nancy is killed by McDermott and then a couple of days later, Kinnear is shot by McDermott, when he comes home from a business trip.
Grace and McDermott flee and are eventually caught and brought to trial. McDermott is hanged and then at the last minute Grace’s sentenced is changed from death by hanging to life in prison.
The story is told through a fictional Doctor Jordan, who is in jail interviewing Grace over a period of a couple of weeks. Personally, I have a problem with this type of storytelling in a novel. I think that it lazy writing and not very imaginative. The author does use descriptive writing and shows that she has writing skills. However, I feel that this narrative storytelling approach robs the reader of a richer and more intimate story. In the end the fictional storyline of Dr. Jordan doesn’t go anywhere as he just fades away into the background.
I get that the author was trying to draw a lot of parallels between fictional Dr. Jordan and a real life Grace Marks. I think she did this so as to passively show her opinion of what happened to Grace Marks in the unknown parts of the story. I would’ve rather have seen a more fleshed out fictional, when needed, story about the real characters and events in the story.
The actual crux of the story, the murders of Nancy and Kinnear, wasn’t fully addressed in the climax of the story. It was always hinted at and different opinions of the events were given all throughout the book, but it wasn’t described at the right time in the book. I’m guessing this is due to Grace’s reported memory loss of the event.
For me, the best part of the story was when Grace was put under hypnosis to describe the events of that night. This was the creepiest part of the story and I would have loved to have seen more scenes like this one. In this part, upon being put under hypnosis, Grace switches personalities and is Mary Whitney! Mary Whitney confesses to the murders of the two people and describes what happened. I would have loved to see more of this explained of how Grace is either possessed by Mary Whitney’s soul (which is what is hinted at), or have a type of mental health explanation such as multiple personalities. This could have been addressed more throughout the book, since it is a work of fiction and the author could have taken liberties with the story. A lost opportunity in my opinion.
In the end, Grace is released after almost thirty years in prison, as in real history and moves to New York. In history, nothing more is known about Grace after this happens. However, the author writes another chapter on how she meets up with Jamie, the boy from the Kinnear farm, who has now grown into a man. They get married and she lives a happy fictional life from that point on.
I feel that Grace was guilty of being an accomplice in the crime, and also that she was coerced into it by McDermott, who was mad at Nancy and Kinnear for being fired. Grace felt that she would be killed by McDermott along with the others if she didn’t go along with it. McDermott wanted her to run away with her to America and they could get married and be together. Grace went along with all of this due to her fear of McDermott. I think Grace was guilty of not notifying someone of McDermott’s intentions and could have stopped it. She was young and inncocent and this most likely contributed to her decision to go along with McDermott out of fear.
Overall, it was a good story, a bit ambiguous in regards to the pivotal moment of the whole story, but well written in a format that I personally don’t care for. I give the book a rating of 7 out of 10. I would read another story by this author if recommended to me.