The Secrets Act by Alison Weatherby
January 2022, Chicken House
There's something about WWII spy stories that I find irresistible, especially if the main characters are women. So, as soon The Secrets Act by Alison Weatherby popped up in my Instagram feed, I knew my mission was to get hold of it ASAP! It's every bit as intriguing as I'd imagined and is a compelling mystery with wonderful characters.
Set in Bletchley Park where, as the historical note at the back of the book explains, three quarters of the workers were women. Many were also young adults like the main characters Pearl (16) and Ellen (18), who are inspired by real people, although the events of the story are fictional.
Pearl and Ellen seem incredibly real as Alison Weatherby's atmospheric and authentic prose convincingly evokes this era. The reader can almost feel the cold and damp and taste the bland meals that were part of the fabric of wartime life. We can attempt to break codes along with Pearl and Ellen and join them on the hunt for a traitor after they discover that a fatal incident may not be have been an accident. How will the girls know who to trust? Can they rely on their own instincts or will their emotions confuse them? Will it be possible for their investigation to proceed without drawing suspicion on themselves? Are the people they meet as genuine as they seem? And can they even depend on one another? As soon as I started The Secrets Act, I was instantly hooked. Alison Weatherby whisks the reader back in time effortlessly and elegantly. The content is suitable for younger teens while also engaging enough for older readers. Although the characters are living with rations, there is no shortage of suspense.
The Secrets Act touches on the challenges for the LGBTQ community at a time when being LGBTQ was illegal. It also explores being neurodiverse back when there was even less understanding and compassion than there is now. Just like its protagonists, this book has many layers and will keep readers guessing right to the end.