Book Review – ‘The Killing Code’ by Ellie Marney

TITLE: The Killing Code
AUTHOR: Ellie Marney
GENRE: YA Historical Fiction, LGBT, Thriller
WORD/PAGE COUNT: 384 pages (hardcover)
PUBLICATION DETAILS: by Allen & Unwin on September 20th, 2022
RRP$41.99 AUD (hardcover)

Blurb from Goodreads:

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.

THE KILLING CODE is the latest thriller by Ellie Marney focusing on a group of female codebreakers at Arlington Hall who join together to catch the man responsible for the death of their friends. 

I don’t read a lot of historical fiction, but as a fan of this author’s previous book NONE SHALL SLEEP, I had to check it out and was hooked immediately. To be clear, it’s not similar to NSS which had a laser-sharp focus on the criminal investigation and serial killer profiling without any romance, but the characters we meet here are just as well-written, endearing and easy to invest in. I enjoyed how the criminal profiling element was brought up again in a relevant context as the girls apply their skills at code-breaking to identify the murderer. They weren’t twisted into pretzels to act like FBI profilers which would’ve been unrealistic, but used their innate intelligence, training and connections in their investigation.

It blows my mind how much research the author put into writing this book and incorporating historical details, I particularly loved the quotes at the start of each chapter from one of the real-life World War II Code Girls which made it feel more immersive. I admit I did have to google victory rolls and why Kit was drawing on stocking seams, which others will probably be more familiar with, but I enjoyed picking up these little tidbits of life in their day. The fashion was very on-point and helped the characters pop off the page! 

My favorite element was the romance between Kit and Moya which was very sweet and wholesome. In the middle of all the tension with the war, murders and Kit concealing her real identity, it was a lovely shining arc and I’m relieved they had a happy ending so have no fear on that front! Aside from the sapphic romance, the book developed wonderful strong friendships between the core four ladies who were each other’s biggest supporters and cheerleaders. 

Fun, empowering and fascinating – a delight to read!

Book Review – ‘The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches’ by Sangu Mandanna

TITLE: The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches
AUTHOR: Sangu Mandanna
GENRE: Paranormal Fantasy
WORD/PAGE COUNT: 336 pages (paperback)
PUBLICATION DETAILS: by Penguin Random House on August 23rd, 2022
RRP$41.57 AUD (hardcover)

Blurb from Goodreads:

A warm and uplifting novel about an isolated witch whose opportunity to embrace a quirky new family–and a new love–changes the course of her life.

As one of the few witches in Britain, Mika Moon knows she has to hide her magic, keep her head down, and stay away from other witches so their powers don’t mingle and draw attention. And as an orphan who lost her parents at a young age and was raised by strangers, she’s used to being alone and she follows the rules…with one exception: an online account, where she posts videos pretending to be a witch. She thinks no one will take it seriously.

But someone does. An unexpected message arrives, begging her to travel to the remote and mysterious Nowhere House to teach three young witches how to control their magic. It breaks all of the rules, but Mika goes anyway, and is immediately tangled up in the lives and secrets of not only her three charges, but also an absent archaeologist, a retired actor, two long-suffering caretakers, and…Jamie. The handsome and prickly librarian of Nowhere House would do anything to protect the children, and as far as he’s concerned, a stranger like Mika is a threat. An irritatingly appealing threat.

As Mika begins to find her place at Nowhere House, the thought of belonging somewhere begins to feel like a real possibility. But magic isn’t the only danger in the world, and when a threat comes knocking at their door, Mika will need to decide whether to risk everything to protect a found family she didn’t know she was looking for….

From the moment you read its title, The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches gives off a particular vibe—quirky, wry, humorous. Its first page cements this impression as we take in Mika Moon’s musings about the titular secret society of witches without a name, for whom she decides to create a series of improbable names in order to irritate the prim and proper head witch Primrose. It perfectly encapsulates the overall atmosphere of this book featuring a charming witty heroine who is part of an ancient order with traditions that she bucks against in a low-stakes feelgood paranormal fantasy.

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