Helen MacInnes 1907–
Scottish-born American novelist.
Helen MacInnes writes novels of international intrigue based upon a pattern of traditional characters, values, and elements of suspense. Her standard conflicts take the form of opposing ideologies: America and the West versus the Nazis and, later, Communists and terrorists. The lines of good and evil are clearly drawn in her work and it is understood that good will triumph. Accordingly, her amateur heroes consistently emerge unscathed from the most danger-fraught situations, after first thwarting their professional antagonists. Above Suspicion (1941), a tale of espionage set in pre-World War II Germany and Austria, begins the roster of MacInnes novels. Her most recent, Cloak of Darkness (1982), is a thriller about international terrorism and munitions trafficking.
While most critics praise the accuracy and detail of her narratives, many have called her characters innocuous, interchangeable, and unrealistic—types rather than individuals. Others observe, however, that her lack of introspection contributes to the light, readable pace of her books. Critics also note that MacInnes's books could be more concise, though their length derives more from her frequent digressions than from inflated writing. Because her professionalism and story telling ability are widely acknowledged and respected, it has often been suggested that she write books with a greater variety of subjects and plots. MacInnes attempted to do so in Friends and Lovers (1947) and Rest and Be Thankful (1949), but when both books received lukewarm critical reception, MacInnes returned to the formula responsible for her books being consistent best sellers.
(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 1-4, rev. ed.; Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vol. 1; and Something about the Author, Vol. 22.)