Please welcome Sophia Rose to the blog with a World War II historical fiction, The Codebreaker’s Secret by Sara Ackerman. Come for the lush island setting, stay for the mystery.
by Sara Ackerman
Genres: Historical Fiction
Purchase*: Amazon | Audible *affiliate
A brilliant female codebreaker. An “unbreakable” Japanese naval code. A pilot on a top-secret mission that could change the course of WWII. The Codebreaker's Secret is a dazzling story of love and intrigue set during America’s darkest hour.
1943. As war in the Pacific rages on, Isabel Cooper and her codebreaker colleagues huddle in “the dungeon” at Station HYPO in Pearl Harbor, deciphering secrets plucked from the airwaves in a race to bring down the enemy. Isabel has only one wish: to avenge her brother’s death. But she soon finds life has other plans when she meets his best friend, a hotshot pilot with secrets of his own.
1965. Fledgling journalist Lu Freitas comes home to Hawai'i to cover the grand opening of the glamorous Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Rockefeller's newest and grandest project. When a high-profile guest goes missing, Lu forms an unlikely alliance with an intimidating veteran photographer to unravel the mystery. The two make a shocking discovery that stirs up memories and uncovers an explosive secret from the war days. A secret that only a codebreaker can crack.
Sophia Rose’s Review
Two intrepid women, a shared mystery, war codebreaking, and a tropical island paradise, make the latest Sara Ackerman historical fiction a lush and layered story for readers.
I’ve only experienced one other book from the author, Radar Girls, so was expecting something of the same sort, but The Codebreaker’s Secret surprised me with a dual timeline and a murder mystery beyond the expected women’s history, side romance, and war elements set in Hawaii that are usual to her books. Once I adjusted to this change in structure, I settled into the separate and then merged tales of Isabel and Lu.
At first, I was more taken with Isabel’s tale set in the WWII period as a crack codebreaker who was sent to the top secret ‘basement’ in Hawaii after she earned the highest codebreaking status and felt the fulfillment that she has likely saved many American lives. Walt, her Navy pilot brother came down there in the Pearl Harbor attack and so there she must be to go up against the Japanese herself and crack their codes to beat them on behalf of her brother. Matteo, Walt’s best friend and fellow pilot who is eaten by a secret is someone she grows close to while doing her important work. Then, she stumbles over a dangerous possibility- a spy for the enemy among their own?
Lu’s side was seeing her ambitions of being a successful journalist thwarted because she’s a woman, but has her chance to come home and cover the big hotel grand opening. Her friend disappears and a certain photographer named Matteo helps her, but the disappearance leads to a murder and a dark secret of the WWII days exposed. At first, as I said, I was drawn to Izzy’s time line, but Lu’s time line got going about half way and the two merged since a code turns up and Isobel is needed once again.
I was glad to see the author’s writing pulled me in this second book and I was engaged with her characters and their situations. The mystery added a layer of suspense that is always a welcome element to me though it does end up rather pat. I was a sucker for the romance and was touched to see the author wrote in Matteo’s war and PTSD struggles that were only vaguely acknowledged or understood back then. There is a nice layered story as a result of it all.
More than ever, I want to go back and hit Sara Ackerman’s backlist. WWII historical fictions with women protagonists set in the Pacific Theater are harder to find so that is a big compelling draw, but, in truth, it is her writing. She is slipping toward my favorite author list and I’m happy to see it. Do go, historical fiction fans, and put this on the reading stack.
Never miss a post by adding Caffeinated to your Inbox