National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 30-32.


MacInnes, Helen.  Assignment in Brittany.  Boston: Little, Brown, 1942.

Among authors in the espionage category, MacInnes stands out for her lack of cynicism and for her faith in the essential decency of individuals who are willing to expose themselves to hazard for the sake of a good cause.  This sensibility makes her work very distinct from that of many of the most acclaimed novelists in the genre, from Eric Ambler to John Le Carre.  Some critics have observed that MacInnes’ characters are too close to simple types and that her plots are, conversely, unduly intricate.  Yet, the enduring popularity of her novels seems to stem from her ability to convey her intuitive grasp of human character and her incisive observations about human behavior.  In fact, the suspense in her novels almost always is character-based, regardless of how complicated the events are that envelop those characters.  In her preference for…

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