Thursday, April 28, 2011

Review: Heart of Deception by M. L. Malcolm

I am normally terribly fussy about reading series books in the order in which they were meant to be read but occasionally I can be persuaded to ignore this tendency and read the one that is at hand. Somehow, I missed the information that Heart of Deception is a sequel to Heart of Lies and so I might never have known I was breaking my own rules except that I read the back of the book when I picked it up to read and that was all she wrote of my ignorance of the previous book. In a happy circumstance though, this book stood on its own perfectly well so I didn't have to worry too much about a backstory with which I was unfamiliar.

Leo Hoffman is a spy and a damned good one. He's also a father who wants nothing more than to get back to his daughter. And if these two pieces of his life seem contradictory or mutually exclusive, they are. After his wife's death in a bombing in Shanghai, he sent their daughter Madeleine to the US and to safety with his new wife, a nasty, vindictive woman who wants revenge on Leo after he annulls their marriage. Maddy lives first with Amelia, the spurned wife, then with the family of a school friend, and finally with her mother's sister, a stern and emotionally cold woman. She has no knowledge of what her father does or where he is, indeed even if he's alive. In fact, in many cases, the people in her life actively try to poison her against her father. Leo meanwhile, is trying to be of enough use to the SOE (the WWII precursor to the CIA) to earn his American passport so he can rejoin the daughter he loves more than anything else.

Although narrated mainly by Maddy and focusing on the life she leads in New York, feeling abandoned and confused without understanding why, the storyline does jump back to Leo's exploits as one of the most successful Allied spies during the war. Malcolm weaves real life characters into the narrative to add to the realistic feel of the tightness and interconnectedness of the world of espionage. However, the jumps away from Leo's life leave some gaps that would perhaps have best been filled in, especially in the case of Leo's time as a German prisoner of war given the emphasis on his and Maddy's Jewish heritage earlier in the book. The plotline following Maddy's life likewise has some underdeveloped portions. More plot driven than character driven, sometimes the characters' actions come from out of left field rather than as a logical development based on how they are drawn. Maddy's wild, all-consuming affair with Gene Mandretti is just one instance of this.

Despite the flaws here and the characters I found not particularly likable, the story does gallop along and even when situations start to feel too far-fetched to be believable, it's impossible to put the book down. I finished this one in just a few short hours and while I could have wished for more fully developed characters and a few less coincidences, overall, it was an entertaining, fast-paced read.

For more information about M.L. Malcolm and the book visit her webpage and her on Facebook page.

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.


  1. I have this one on my shelf to read. Glad you liked it.

    Book Dilettante

  2. I think this would be a great book for a weekend getaway - that's when I want a story that speeds along and keeps my attention even when things get a bit far-fetched.

    Thanks for being on the tour!

  3. Have you read Heart of Lies, the first book?

  4. I liked the book overall, but wanted more of the WWII part of the story. I didn't find Maddy's story as interesting. I hope it's okay to link to your review on War Through the Generations.


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