Helen MacInnes Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

At the height of her popularity, Helen MacInnes was known as the “queen of international espionage fiction.” Although her novels contain much less sex and violence than others of the genre, they are highly suspenseful. In addition, they are based on an appreciation of justice, freedom, and individual dignity. Perhaps the most characteristic element of MacInnes’s novels is their settings, which are invariably beautiful and of historic interest. The capital cities of Europe and its many forests, lakes, castles, and opera houses are described in such detail that the novels may be enjoyed as travel books. Brittany, Salzburg, Málaga, Venice, and Rome come alive for the reader. MacInnes’s love for these and other spots of the world, as well as her appreciation of democratic values, illuminates and enhances her novels.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Boyd, Mark K. “The Enduring Appeal of the Spy Thrillers of Helen MacInnes.” Clues: A Journal of Detection 4 (Fall/Winter, 1983): 66-75. A look at the aspects of MacInnes’s work that have contributed to its lasting popularity.

Breit, Harvey. The Writer Observed. Cleveland: World Publishing, 1956. Examination of the process of crafting fiction that uses MacInnes as one of its case studies.

Hitz, Frederick P. The Great Game: The Myth and Reality of Espionage. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004. Hitz, the former inspector general of the Central Intelligence Agency, compares fictional spies to actual intelligence agents to demonstrate that truth is stranger than fiction. Helps readers gain perspective on MacInnes’s work.

McDowell, Edwin. “Helen MacInnes: Seventy-seven, Novelist and Specialist in Spy Fiction.” The New York Times, October 1, 1985, p. B6. Obituary of Manhattan resident MacInnes describes her life, noting that an encounter with Nazis while on her honeymoon influenced her writing of Above Suspicion.

Seymour-Smith, M. Novels and Novelists. London: Windward, 1980. Discusses MacInnes as a novelist first and a mystery novelist second.

Terry, Stephen. “Helen MacInnes, Spy Novelist.” Evening Times, April 25, 2001, p. 14. Short profile of MacInnes that notes her Scottish roots and her renown as a writers of spy thrillers.