Title: The Killing Code
Author: Ellie Marney
Published: September 2022
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Readership: Young Adult
Content warnings: Death of a friend, murder, blood, assault and rape (mentioned, off page), WWII
I received a copy of The Killing Code from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
A young codebreaker at Arlington Hall – the secret WWII Signals Intelligence unit in Washington DC – joins forces with other female codebreakers to hunt a murderer who is killing US government girls. Another page-turning YA thriller from the author of None Shall Sleep, perfect for fans of A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder.
1943. World War II is raging across Europe and on the Pacific front. Kit Sutherland is hiding a huge secret when she is unexpectedly recruited to work as a young codebreaker at Arlington Hall, a US Signals Intelligence facility.
When Kit’s roommate doesn’t return home from a dance, it sparks a search that ends in a gruesome discovery. And soon it turns into a horrifying pattern: Government girls are being murdered in Washington, DC.
Kit joins forces with three other girl codebreakers, Dottie, Moya and Violet, and as they work to crack the killer’s code, two things become terrifyingly clear: the murderer they’re hunting is getting closer every moment … and Kit’s own secret could put her in more jeopardy than she ever imagined.
Any time a new Ellie Marney book drops I’m always waiting very eagerly to read it, and The Killing Code was no exception. This book combines lots of elements that I love – smartly written YA thrillers, girl gangs and codebreaking history – into one very smart, engaging book.
Kit Sutherland is a girl living a lie, recruited to Arlington Hall’s Signals Intelligence Unit and hoping that no one ever discovers her secret. When she finds one of the girls from her unit murdered, she and her friends Dottie, Moya and Violet won’t stop until the uncover the truth, even if it means her own truth comes out.
I’d read a little bit about the premise of the book prior to reading, but had avoided reading too much because I like to go into books blind, so the start of this book really threw me a curve ball I wasn’t expecting in terms of Kit’s secret (which we find out about in the first chapter). Kit is an interesting character – a girl with a secret, but a big heart and a very clever mind. She’s thrown herself into codebreaking and is good at it, but because of who she is she finds it hard to let other’s in. She’s also got a little crush on her supervisor and friend, Moya, who (to Kit’s mind) is everything she’s not.
The story is told from Kit and Moya’s POV (although we spend slightly more time in Kit’s POV) and we get to see how events at Arlington Hall and the nature of the murder investigation Kit and her friends decide to solve unfound in tandem. Kit attacks the clues left by the murderer like she would a code, and it was clear Ellie Marney had spent a lot of time researching the work of codebreakers from the quotes and interesting facts woven in to the story.
I love a strong female friendship and this group had a girl gang – all incredibly intelligent and capable young women hoping to make a difference in the world. I particularly enjoyed Violet’s character, a young Black woman determined to make changes, who opens the eyes of her new-found friends to the privilege they experience. There are a lot of great discussions around racial segregation and racism and how our characters have to learn to navigate that with regards to their friend – but there was never a moment when any of the characters treated Violet as anything other than an equal.
The reveal of the killer kept me guessing right until the very end, and that’s always a good sign.
I can’t wait for Ellie’s next release. Her books are always compelling and compulsively readable.