Blog Tour – The Secrets Act

Hello hello and welcome or welcome back to my little bookish corner of the internet. Today is my stop on the Chicken House blog tour for The Secrets Act, a young adult mystery full of secrets on multiple levels. A huge thank you to Chicken House for my copy of this exciting book!

Synopsis
Codebreaker. Friend. Spy?
Wartime.

Pearl and Ellen work at top-secret codebreaking HQ, Bletchley Park.

Pearl is the youngest. A messenger at sixteen, she’s untidy, lively, bright, and half in love with the wrong boy, Richard. Her circle of friends overlaps with his – the dashing young men on their motorcycles who courier the secrets that Bletchley deciphers.

Ellen is a codebreaker. Reserved, analytical and beautiful. She never expected to get close to a girl like Pearl – or fall for a chap like Dennis.

But when tragedy strikes, their logical world is upended, with both friends caught in a spy plot that rocks the very heart of the war effort. Who can they turn to now? Who can they trust? And above all, can they unmask the traitor in their midst before it’s too late?

Review
There are so many wonderful things to say about this book that it’s hard to know where to begin. Like the author, I’ve got a deep rooted fascination with Bletchly Park, and have always wanted to see something giving more representation and praise to the many, many women that were involved in the war effort there, so this book ticked so many of my boxes right from reading the synopsis.

Pearl and Ellen are both wonderfully crafted characters who feel so very human. 3D and jumping off the page, we see their highs and lows, and the way they are brought together by so many things, and are ultimately united in their trust of one another, and suspicion of everyone else.

Along with being a historical fiction novel, this is of course a book about a mysterious death. Now if you’ve ever been here on my blog before, you’ll know I’m an absolute sucker for a mystery or thriller, and find them even more interesting when the characters don’t, for whatever reason have access to modern technology, setting them back a few steps. So with this and the extra difficulties that the war setting adds in, it makes it even more intriuging.

Suspicion falls on absolutely everyone all along the way, and it was only in the last few chapters that we finally find out the full picture of what has been going on. The ability to keep readers captive right until the very end is a huge success here, and I can’t wait to read whatever the author produces next!

The History and Inspiration Behind THE SECRETS ACT
The idea of my debut YA mystery, THE SECRETS ACT, started with an innocent visit to Bletchley Park. Like everyone else, I’d seen the movies about Alan Turing and knew a bit about the Enigma code, but that was about it. As I steered my young daughters through the exhibits, I was floored to find out that 75% of the workers at Bletchley were young women. I was living in Seattle, WA at the time and the political outlook in the US was pretty grim, especially for women and girls. I was looking for a new project and I’d found it in the history of the strong young women who had worked long shifts, crazy hours, and cracked difficult ciphers during WW2.

As anyone who has been to the Bletchley Park museum knows, the place is rich with information, which is great for the casual tourist and horrible for a writer like myself. I’d never attempted historical fiction before and have since realized that my previous method of creating a story (flying by the seat of my pants) is dangerous when faced with a jillion real-life character ideas. Thankfully, I knew I wanted the story to be, at its core, about friendship, so I needed two models from actual history to be my Ellen and Pearl.

Pearl grew out of the youngest employee at Bletchley, who started as a messenger at 15. I needed a character who knew everything – a tall order at a place where secrecy was key. I wanted her to be loud, confident, but also an outsider looking in, someone who needed a friend. Ellen grew out of several different young women, but the seeds for her character grew when I learned about the detailed archiving process at the Park. Once I knew what the girls were going to do, their personalities started to take shape and I was able to fill in the details of their family life, what they looked like, and what their expectations were.

Other characters also were inspired by actual Bletchley employees. Mr St John was loosely based on Dilly Knox, who was an amazing cryptographer and scholar and surrounded himself with female employees known as “Dilly’s fillies” or “Dilly’s girls.” The spies were based on the Cambridge Five spy ring and Dotty Waincross was carefully modeled after the posh “debs.”

Honestly, the research bit may have been the easy part! But it was fun and exciting to find inspiration for my characters from real-life heroes of Bletchley Park.

The Secrets Act is out now in paperback, and you can find out more at alisonweatherby.com and chickenhousebooks.com. You can find the author on Twitter at @aliwea.

A big thank you again to Chicken House, and I hope you’ve enjoyed my post about this fabulous book as much as I enjoyed reading it.

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