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Mission Churchill
Alex Abella
Abella (The Great American) spins an exciting and colorful historical thriller centered on epochal British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, his doggedly faithful bodyguard Walter Thompson, and Irish nationalist Marcus Riley. Riley's fervent desire for revenge against Churchill, for personal and patriotic reasons, extends from a volatile 1930s Cuba to Blitz-ravaged London in 1940. During Cuba’s 1933 military coup, Churchill works as a reporter in Havana, covering the revolution while pointing out tautologies, relishing cigars, and laying out, over drinks, how Europe can stand up to fascism: “We must arm, arm, and arm some more.” Abella, inspired by Warren Adler and James C. Humes’s novel Target Churchill, captures the romance and danger of the era as well as Churchill and Thompson's frequently frayed relationship, especially once Thompson fends off an assassination attempt from the driven Riley.

Almost a decade after Churchill witnesses a “symphony of destruction” in Cuba, he faces Riley and a far-ranging conspiracy in 1940, as the bombs of the Blitz are ravaging London, making Churchill vulnerable to his political enemies and Nazi sympathizers. Thompson spots Riley, and the chase is once again on, as ruthless Riley navigates a maze of conspirators to get to his goal, dealing with disgruntled royals and Nazi agents alike, and Thompson kindles a budding romance with Churchill's secretary, Mary.

Abella blends the fictional and the factual in clever ways as Churchill uses Thompson to his surprising advantage to help in his handling of political and personal issues. Meanwhile, the unexpected truth of the conspiracy creates tension until the very end. Churchill is presented as a warts-and-all figure, as his frequently racist viewpoints aren't sugar-coated. The true hero is the steadfast Thompson, whose emotional arc is the narrative’s heart. While the story itself is thrilling and filled with shocks, it's Abella's attention to character and historical detail that makes Mission Churchill a success.

Takeaway: Historical thriller with compelling cast and white-knuckle suspense.

Comparable Titles: Warren Adler and James C. Humes’s Target Churchill, Alan Hlad’s Churchill's Secret Messenger.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A-