"Miss Moneypenny's experience with mystery stretches all the way back to her childhood in Africa, when her father inexplicably disappeared in action during World War II. Now, as a young woman in 1960s London, Miss Moneypenny unknowingly stumbles upon her father's trail. In a position like hers, there's no file she can't access, and no document she can't read. Yet Miss Moneypenny is forced to decide whether it's worth risking everything---her job, her safety, and even international security---for the possibility of finding her father alive."
Moneypenny Diaries: Guardian Angel Official Summary:
What was life like for Miss Jane Moneypenny, secretary to one of the most powerful men in all of England and keeper of a nation's secrets? This is precisely that question that The Moneypenny Diaries: Guardian Angel begins to answer. One thing is for sure, she had a far more interesting life than the way she was portrayed in the movies and novels, where she basically sat around waiting to get orders from M or to flirt with 007.
Moneypenny Diaries: Guardian Angel Review:
The Moneypenny Diaries is written by the fictional Kate Westbrook, the niece of Miss Moneypenny, who inherits her aunt's diaries after her death. A lengthy investigation helps her determine that Bond, M and the whole gang at MI6 were actually real people and that Ian Fleming based his famous novels off of actual events. Guardian Angel follows one year's worth of entries and is set in between the events of Fleming's On Her Majesty's Secret Service and You Only Live Twice and finds Moneypenny alternating between investigating her father's mysterious death two decades earlier and her trying to help Bond get out of a deep depression caused by Tracy's death.
As I read the novel, I found something curious happened: I actually wanted to read more about Miss Moneypenny's adventures than Bond's. It almost seemed that the Bond character was put in there because the public demanded it, but he was not a focal point of the novel. Moneypennny's investigation into her father's death was more interesting, more developed and truly the heart of the novel. However, both of these stories paled in comparison to the enjoyment I got out of reading the back-story of how Moneypenny got into the Service and seeing the behind the scenes interactions between the staff at MI6. There is even a mention of Universal Exports.
Some of my favorite parts of the novel were the scenes in the secretaries' wash room, where all of the various station heads and 00 agents' secretaries stood around and exchanged top secret tales of what their bosses were up to. I also loved the sequences where Bill Tanner was helping Moneypenny set up a sting operation to try and capture a man who was blackmailing her. The interactions between Moneypenny, M and Q are also far more fleshed out than in the novels and movies. In fact, in Guardian Angel it is Moneypenny who pays multiple visits to to Q Branch.
The first US printing of The Moneypenny Diaries: Guardian Angel
Another aspect of the novel that I loved was how it showed the aftermath of many of the novels. For example, Moneypenny had to fill out forms for every person that Bond killed and for all of the pieces of government property that Bond destroyed or left behind. Also intriguing was how Moneypenny acted as a filter for Bond's love interests. Numerous wonderful pages are spent discussing how Moneypenny has to dash the hope of many Bond Girls including Solitaire, Honey Ryder, Ruby Windsor, Tiffany Case, Tatiana Romanova and more. After Bond's mission, they would all come knocking at the MI6 door looking to continue their relationship and the uncomfortable task of informing them that they were just another in a long line of conquests fell on our dear Jane.
All these positives aside, I would be remiss if I didn't mention my issues with the novel. Perhaps my largest complaint is that of the copious amounts of footnotes. I understand that these are important, as not everyone reading the novel knows about current events from the 1960s or the details of many of the lesser known elements of Bondian lore. Still, it is very distracting from the flow of the novel when I have to stop reading the narrative every page or so to read a footnote.
The other minor issue I had with the novel is that alternating between the two subplots as well as trying to put in Kate Westbrook's narrative makes it so that none of those three areas are ever as fully developed as I would have liked.
These little niggles aside, I feel that the Moneypenny Diaries is a welcome addition to the Bond literary canon that deserves a place alongside the rest of the classic 007 novels. It adds a layer of depth to some of the ancillary characters that is sorely missing both from the movies as well as the other novels and I am excited for Secret Servant to be released in the USA. Hopefully I won't have to wait another three years!