Mysterious parcels that may connect a British World War II typist with her past make a dangerous gift.
Honey Deschamps nearly stays for a third viewing of Suspicion at Bletchley’s local cinema to keep her mind off ration coupons, her tedious shifts of typing intercepted messages into a code-breaking machine at the Park, and the universal, necessary blackout material that makes the nighttime even darker. But instead she heads back to her bleak billet, where Felix Plaidstow, a stranger with a greyhound named Nijinksy, hands her a package. She gets a first glimpse into a fairy-tale world when she unwraps the parcel with a Leningrad postmark and finds a square of what looks like amber. After the arrival of two more packages, each containing another panel, Honey discovers a coded message carved in the amber. She believes both message and amber are from the father she never knew, a Russian musician and composer—at least according to Honey’s brother, Dickie. A final package containing a model of a firebird, representing ballet-dancing Dickie’s beloved legend, seems to support Honey’s theory. In addition to requesting help from her friend and colleague Moira Draper, a brilliant mathematician who made a breakthrough in the important decrypting work at the Park, Honey sends a coded message of her own to Dickie. Unnerving events at Bletchley—being watched and reported on, a supervisor’s assurance that he’ll personally shoot anyone betraying the Park’s secrets, a glimpse behind the blackout at a strange banquet, Moira’s sudden disappearance—add to Honey’s fear that she’s in over her head. She can’t discuss things even with Felix, who seems to be there when she needs him, whether she’s being tested for loyalty or given a key to her true heritage in the form of a smuggled treasure. After a shattering murder and a devastating discovery, the darkness of Bletchley threatens to envelop her altogether.
Ribchester (The Hourglass Factory, 2016) convincingly re-creates wartime life and the enclosed world of code-breaking and plays out the suspense in a Hitchcock homage almost worthy of the master.