Review: Pray For a Brave Heart by Helen MacInnes

It’s 1952 and American Bill Denning is ready to say goodbye to life in the army’s Restitution of Property division with his eyes set on returning home to the States. But when a friend and fellow army man comes to him with a quiet and emphatic request for one last case, Denning finds himself amid tumultuous drama in Switzerland as he works to recover the elusive Herz diamonds, spoilers from the war which are reportedly being smuggled out of the continent. On a mission to retrieve the diamonds, Denning will need all of his wits and a few trusted friends to help him navigate the treacherous territory of Europe during the Cold War and the manipulations of men who will do what they must for their own agendas.

The ninth in Helen MacInnes’s bibliography of more than twenty novels, Pray for a Brave Heart showcases the author’s talent brilliantly. Originally published in 1955, it highlights and expands on many of the elements for which MacInnes continues to be revered, even now, over thirty years after her death; there is a smart energy and a gripping literary prowess that sparks off the pages. Comparing Pray for a Brave Heart with the first of MacInnes’s novels that I recently read, Above Suspicion, I was struck by the way she managed to maintain her unique brand of storytelling while completely altering the experience of the two novels. With fourteen years between the publication of each book, and with seven books in between, MacInnes was able to evolve her story’s thrills to keep her genre fresh without losing touch with the writing style readers instantly came to know her for. I enjoyed the departures from Above Suspicion that she took in Pray for a Brave Heart, most notably the different way she approached her narrative. Bill Denning is a vibrant character and his unique blend of intelligence, humility and vague cynicism bleed through to MacInnes’s writing voice in a way that caught my attention from the very beginning and kept me entertained throughout.

The story, as well, is a riveting journey through post-war Europe; deceptively simple on the surface, the reader is barraged with information, names, places, and scenarios in just the sort of tightly-wound way that gives a good suspense novel its ultimate pull. Smartly crafted, wonderfully paced, and filled with characters whose agendas could be either truthful or malicious, Pray for a Brave Heart is the quintessential exploration of the world of espionage; it’s suspense writing at its finest, and MacInnes at the height of creativity.


Title: Pray for a Brave Heart
Author: Helen MacInnes
Genre: mystery, suspense
Publisher: Titan Books
Release date: January 29, 2013
Source: Titan Books (c/o)
Buy the book: Amazon | Kindle | Barnes & Noble
Connect with the publisher: Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter

Pray for a Brave Heart