Published by Allen & Unwin on September 20, 2022
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, War & Military, Young Adult
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A historical mystery about a girl who risks everything to track down a vicious serial killer, for fans of The Enigma Game and A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder.
Virginia, 1943: World War II is raging in Europe and on the Pacific front when Kit Sutherland is recruited to help the war effort as a codebreaker at Arlington Hall, a former girls’ college now serving as the site of a secret US Signals Intelligence facility in Virginia. But Kit is soon involved in another kind of fight: Government girls are being brutally murdered in Washington DC, and when Kit stumbles onto a bloody homicide scene, she is drawn into the hunt for the killer. To find the man responsible for the gruesome murders and bring him to justice, Kit joins forces with other female codebreakers at Arlington Hall—gossip queen Dottie Crockford, sharp-tongued intelligence maven Moya Kershaw, and cleverly resourceful Violet DuLac from the segregated codebreaking unit. But as the girls begin to work together and develop friendships—and romance—that they never expected, two things begin to come clear: the murderer they’re hunting is closing in on them…and Kit is hiding a dangerous secret.
So I’m not usually one for WW2 books, I find them bleak and depressing (and rightly so). However, I was willing to give The Killing Code a go, because it features female sapphic codebreakers – and it’s also written by Ellie Marney, whose writing I adore.
The Killing Code features sapphic female codebreakers during the WW2 war effort, who are also solving a murder case. The stakes are high as the murderer is after girls of their age, and being too close on the trail will mean danger for them.
Female codebreakers during WW2
Kit, the main character of the story, has a case of stolen identity and is pretending to be someone she isn’t. She is posing as Kathleen, an Englishman’s daughter, and her secret could be discovered at any time. Despite this, Kit fits right in with her quick wit and smarts, and she’s formed a close friendship with her fellow co-workers.
Her co-workers are a group of inspiring young women who are –
- Dottie, her best friend who just wants to be loved,
- Moya, her prim and proper supervisor,
- Violet is a Black worker who has found herself on common ground with the girls.
It’s quite a mix of personalities and ladies of different social stature, which makes the interactions between them all the more interesting.
Strong and empowering females
My favourite thing about The Killing Code, is the strong thread of female empowerment and found family. The girls all support each other not only in their roles as codebreakers, but also in their pursuits of romance, solving murders, and through various challenges. I really enjoyed the friendship and support they offered one another, and loved to see it all play out, especially with Kit’s precarious situation.
The stakes are high as they are on the hunt for the killer, Kit’s identity can be discovered during an impending security check, not to mention their work on the war. The research during this time is well conducted, as we read about the types of codes they worked on collectively and the structure of the teams of codebreakers.
Sapphic relationship between supervisor and co-worker
I loved seeing the relationship unfold between Moya and Kit, as the two supported each other through their interactions. The two are smart and also tentatively test their feelings for one another, but also know when to be restrained and to cool things down.
The Killing Code may have changed my mind when it comes to WW2 novels – this was an engaging, empowering page turner featuring a murder mystery and crime-fighting, intelligent females. I really enjoyed everything that the novel had to offer and would thoroughly recommend it to everyone looking for a great read. Ellie Marney has done it again!
Rating: 5 out of 5
Thanks to Allen & Unwin Australia for sending me a review copy!
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