Mr Einstein’s Secretary, a review by Joanna

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Mr Einstein’s Secretary

Matthew Reilly

464 pages

MacMillan Australia

Published on Oct 17th, 2023


This one is something of a departure for Matthew Reilly, who normally writes breakneck-paced action thrillers – a historical fiction novel about a female spy in Nazi Germany. I was sceptical, after the disappointment of Cobalt Blue, and particularly as I generally avoid this era in fiction, but it was given to me and recommended by a friend who has no tolerance for tedium, so I gave it a go, and ended up really liking it, with some reservations.

Hanna Fischer grew up in Berlin with an American mother and German father, dreaming of becoming a physicist like her newly famous neighbour, Albert Einstein, but after the loss of her parents, flees to New York, where she trains as a secretary. With war brewing in Europe, Hanna will travel back and witness – and sometimes influence – history being made…
This had a likeable if somewhat too good to be true heroine, a daft subplot about her evil twin sister, cameos from various famous and infamous characters from history, and the author’s trademarked death defying action sequences. I kept expecting it to develop into a sci-fi or time travel story, but there’s none of that – which turns out to be a good thing. There’s his usual outrageous dependence on coincidence and deus ex machina escapes, but that’s all part of the fun if you don’t take it too seriously. I wasn’t sure about the flashbacks and time jumps, which got confusing at times, but it all makes sense in the end. Recommended to fans of the author who are open to something a bit different, rather than serious history buffs!

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    While I enjoyed the background story, I felt the secretary part tripped the whole book up. She came across as some sort of Wonder Woman. It would be rated higher by me if he had toned down the antics of the drop in lady.

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