Genre: Historical Age Range: YA Star Rating: 4 stars Series: standalone
Codebreaker. Friend. Spy?
Wartime. Pearl and Ellen work at top-secret codebreaking HQ, Bletchley Park.
Pearl is the youngest. A messenger at sixteen, she’s untidy, lively, bright, and half in love with the wrong boy, Richard. Her circle of friends overlaps with his – the dashing young men on their motorcycles who courier the secrets that Bletchley deciphers.
Ellen is a codebreaker. Reserved, analytical and beautiful. She never expected to get close to a girl like Pearl – or fall for a chap like Dennis.
But when tragedy strikes, their logical world is upended, with both friends caught in a spy plot that rocks the very heart of the war effort. Who can they turn to now? Who can they trust? And above all, can they unmask the traitor in their midst before it’s too late?
Blurb taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
THE SECRETS ACT is a historical mystery set around Bletchley Park where even accidentally letting something slip counts as treason and comes with the strongest penalty.
This setting really allows the stakes to be as high as they can be, with the characters’ lives on the line under the treason laws. It lets tiny, seemingly innocuous actions like glancing too long at something be as dangerous as actual treason because of rife suspicion. There is also the implication of what leaking information would mean for the war.
The mystery is a nice, neat, compelling one. There are lots of discrepancies in the stories that casts suspicion back and forth between a few characters. Not to mention the uncertainty of the exact motive behind the events – you know it has to do with passing on information, but exactly why the culprit is doing that is another uncertainty making solving the crime more difficult for Pearl and Ellen.
Of course, with the book being set at Bletchley Park, that means there is a lot of codebreaking in the book – and I (someone who has always enjoyed maths and puzzles) really like codebreaking. As well as a general overview of some of the steps involved in breaking the codes employed during the war, shown through the girls’ involvement, there are also several simpler codes (like anagrams and first letter codes) scattered throughout that are crucial to the plot.