‘You’ve dropped your book.’ He reaches to the floor.
‘How clumsy of me.’ The blond sticks out his hand. ‘Thank you.’
‘Figley’s Book of Ciphers. Ha. Not planning on fighting Fritz with that, are you?’
‘Gracious, no.’ The blond man laughs. ‘Gift from my father when I was a boy.’
The Amber Shadows is a novel set in Bletchley Park during World War Two. The novel centres around Honey Deschamps. Honey works in Hut 6, transcribing decrypted German messages. Aside from her top secret work, war raging on and reclusive billet family she lives a relatively normal life. She’s embarrassed by her mother’s flamboyant lifestyle as a dancer and entertainer, who in turn is embarrassed by her daughter’s plainness, she goes out with her friends and enjoys a drink and a laugh…then she’s approached by Felix.
Felix works for a neighbouring hut to Honey’s, but the huts rarely communicate unless it is work related. It is surprising, then, when he and his greyhound Nijinsky approach her with a parcel that he claims was delivered to his hut by mistake. This is the first in a series of mysterious parcels that appear to be from Honey’s long lost Russian father.
The book starts off strong. The setting provides that juxtaposed combination of mystery and idyllic scenery, mixed with the wartime pride in our country that Brits lap up. Saying that, however, the book is under no illusions about the reality of war – I usually have reservations about war time fiction, however this is done very well. There isn’t really the glorification seen in some war time fiction, the characters simply…live. They really do make do and mend, but this isn’t seen as particularly good or bad – it’s just the way it is. On the flip side, there are some very dark moments and these are portrayed sensitively. Historically it is clear that Ribchester has researched both the Park and the time period extensively. There is some lovely attention to detail.
This is a book that, much like the Park, holds its cards close to its chest. The secrets of the packages and the questions the readers ask aren’t answered fully until the very last moment. This is one of those books where all is revealed and you suddenly realise there were clues staring you in the face all along – even in the characters’ body language. In some ways this is jarring, and I was left feeling like the pacing was off. One has to wonder whether this was the intention all along – in true Bletchley Park fashion, information is revealed as and when it is needed.
See you soon,