The New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Huntress and The Alice Network returns with another heart-stopping World War II story of three female code breakers at Bletchley Park and the spy they must root out after the war is over.
It’s an odd thing to realize that the author whose work you enjoy the most writes in a genre that you almost never read. I’m not a historical fiction buff, nor am I particularly drawn to stories about World War II. Nonetheless, all three of Kate Quinn’s recent books: The Alice Network (technically a WWI spy thriller), The Huntress, and The Rose Code have captivated me entirely.
I adore Quinn’s writing; it’s vivid, flows incredibly smoothly, draws you into each scene and character. Speaking of characters, she does this wonderful thing with them where they’re actually broadly drawn rather than excessively nuanced, and somehow that works wonderfully for me as a reader. It’s a bit like the difference between modern films and ones from the Golden Age of cinema – it’s not that one’s better than the other (and arguably, modern films probably are better overall), but that sometimes its so purely enjoyable to see those big, clearly defined characters on the screen or page for a time.
I’ve noticed that with all three of the books I’ve read by Kate Quinn that they start fast, have what feel like extended middles with lots of narrative development but not especially fast pacing, and then bring you into these fabulous roller coaster rides in the last act. That sometimes means you worry during the middle of the book that it might not all come to some big, boisterous ending, but in the books of hers I’ve read, the endings have always been worth the wait.
I won’t gush further because, well, I’m still not sure why I like these books so much given my normal genres are fantasy, mystery, and the occasional venture into an Ian McEwan book, but I come away from every Kate Quinn novel wishing she also wrote fantasy, or mystery, or, hell, wrote some Ian McEwan books too.
If you’ve never read anything by Kate Quinn, I recommend starting with The Alice Network. I think I’ve bought that book for more people than any other I can remember, which is surely a good sign.
1940. As England prepares to fight the Nazis, three very different women answer the call to mysterious country estate Bletchley Park, where the best minds in Britain train to break German military codes. Vivacious debutante Osla is the girl who has everything—beauty, wealth, and the dashing Prince Philip of Greece sending her roses—but she burns to prove herself as more than a society girl, and puts her fluent German to use as a translator of decoded enemy secrets. Imperious self-made Mab, product of east-end London poverty, works the legendary codebreaking machines as she conceals old wounds and looks for a socially advantageous husband. Both Osla and Mab are quick to see the potential in local village spinster Beth, whose shyness conceals a brilliant facility with puzzles, and soon Beth spreads her wings as one of the Park’s few female cryptanalysts. But war, loss, and the impossible pressure of secrecy will tear the three apart. 1947. As the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip whips post-war Britain into a fever, three friends-turned-enemies are reunited by a mysterious encrypted letter–the key to which lies buried in the long-ago betrayal that destroyed their friendship and left one of them confined to an asylum. A mysterious traitor has emerged from the shadows of their Bletchley Park past, and now Osla, Mab, and Beth must resurrect their old alliance and crack one last code together. But each petal they remove from the rose code brings danger–and their true enemy–closer…