STARRED REVIEW
October 2022

The Killing Code

By Ellie Marney
A WWII codebreaker sets out to solve a series of gruesome murders by using her codebreaking skills in this engaging historical mystery.
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Kit Sutherland is a new codebreaker, hired by the United States government to decipher Japanese codes during the height of World War II. Unbeknownst to her colleagues, Kit is also an imposter. She had been working as a lady’s maid to a fragile student at Arlington Hall, a prestigious Virginia boarding school. Just before her employer died, she made Kit promise to assume her identity: “Say you’ll live, even when I can’t.” 

Contributing to the war effort at Arlington Hall, which has been purchased by the U.S. Department of War, gives Kit a chance to make a difference. For the first time in her life, she makes friends, saves lives and controls her own destiny—until she and her friends stumble upon a gruesome crime scene. Another girl who works at Arlington Hall has been viciously murdered, and she isn’t the perpetrator’s first victim. The police ignore obvious clues and connections, so Kit and her friends set out to solve the crimes using their codebreaking skills, even though doing so means putting themselves directly in the murderer’s path. 

Australian author Ellie Marney’s The Killing Code is an engaging historical mystery with a vibrant cast of characters, including Moya, Kit’s glamorous supervisor and romantic interest; Dottie, Kit’s loyal roommate; and Violet, a Black codebreaker from the segregated unit whose friend was one of the killer’s first victims. Together they form a fearsome team as they utilize their codebreaking expertise to develop a profile of the murderer. Scenes that depict how Kit and her fellow codebreakers intercept and decipher Japanese ciphers are as fascinating as the investigation itself and are likely to send readers to the resources mentioned in Marney’s author’s note, which also includes two codes for such readers to try their hand at cracking. 

Marney (None Shall Sleep) knows how to pen suspense. Although seasoned mystery fans will likely guess the perpetrator long before the reveal, Marney ratchets up the tension by focusing on how Kit and her friends systematically take down the murderer, ending with a nail-biting showdown. Teens are sure to recommend this book to their friends; they might even do so in code.

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The Killing Code

The Killing Code

By Ellie Marney
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
ISBN 9780316339582

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