THE KILLING CODE
Young Adult Historical Mystery
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 384 pages
Publishing Date: September 20, 2022
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.
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Engaging characters, an immersive 1940s wartime setting,
and a suspenseful and baffling murder mystery!
The Killing Code was a tense and suspenseful story set during World War II, just outside Washington, DC, on the grounds of a former finishing school for young women. The tension came from several directions: Kit’s constant fear of being unmasked as an imposter, the stress and urgency of codebreaking and the war itself, and a string of gruesome murders perpetrated against young female government workers in DC. In addition, there is a romantic subplot involving two main characters.
The author obviously did a lot of amazing research in crafting the story. There are even quotes from historical figures involved in codebreaking and cryptography heading the chapters, including one from a distant cousin of mine (Colonel Parker Hitt.) I was particularly intrigued by the colossal about-face in the workforce at the time, with women fulfilling positions men had traditionally held. I had never heard about the all-black codebreaking unit working simultaneously with the white unit but segregated from them the entire time.
The main characters, the core group of women trying to track down the serial killer, come from different backgrounds and circumstances. But I felt the buildup of camaraderie and how they became a family. I liked how they used their knowledge and skills gained at work to profile the murderer and make sense of the information they gathered. They hit some snags along the way in their investigations and relationships, but their perseverance takes them through all roadblocks, much like tackling the Japanese coded messages.
The author doesn’t keep the women restricted to quarters either. I enjoyed that the investigations took them “off campus,” and we got to experience the world of Washington, DC, during 1940s wartime. Social settings, transportation, telephoning, and clothing are all mentioned, and I felt immersed in the place and time. However, with one of the main characters, a young black woman, the attitudes toward race during those days were also fully displayed.
With great characters that I could relate to and root for from the beginning, the immersive 1940s wartime setting, and the engrossing and baffling murder mystery, I was glued to this book to the very end. I recommend THE KILLING CODE to readers who enjoy historical mysteries, especially those set in World War II or including codebreaking.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ellie Marney is a New York Times bestselling and multi-award-winning crime author who has gone behind the scenes at the Westminster Mortuary in London and interviewed forensic and technical specialists around the world in pursuit of just the right details for her brand of pulse-pounding thrillers.
Her titles include The Killing Code, None Shall Sleep, the Every trilogy, No Limits, White Night and the Circus Hearts series. She has lived in Indonesia, India and Singapore, and is now based in Australia with her partner and their four sons.
Ellie has been involved in the creation of the national campaign called #LoveOzYA to promote and advocate for Australian YA literature. She contributed to the critically-acclaimed Begin End Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology, and co-runs the popular #LoveOzYAbookclub online. She also co-coordinates an online info-sharing group for Australian women self-publishers. She teaches writing and publishing through Writers Victoria, advocates for Australian women’s writing as a Stella Ambassador in schools, and is a regular speaker at festivals and events.
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