‘’It was frightening how close the horror of possibility could loom when the air was turned by a single thought.’’

 

Honey Deschamps is a typist in Hut 6 at Bletchley Park decrypting signals from the German Army. At the end of one of her shifts, she is approached by a man named Felix who says that he has a package for her. The parcel is posted from Russia, and that is not the last parcel that she is to receive. Honey believes that she knows who is sending her the packages, and sets out to prove this while secretly trying to decrypt the codes inside of them as she tries not to get caught hiding messages by the authorities. The deeper Honey delves into these hidden messages, the closer she gets to the truth and ultimately, something more dangerous than perhaps she had been expecting.

The Amber Shadows is Lucy Ribchester’s sophomore novel, and having read and loved her debut novel The Hourglass Factory, I was very excited to tear my way through her latest work. Despite not being particularly fast-paced until nearer the end, it is a great mystery steeped in history and with enough intriguing occurrences to arouse suspicion and keep the reader questioning everyone Honey comes into contact with.  

A fair portion of the novel deals with Honey trying to piece together her past through the parcels being sent to her as she believes that they are being sent by her estranged father. Her memories of her father are not in fact memories, but stories told to her by her older brother Dickie. Could these parcels be a message from her father, trying to tell her something? Honey gets so caught up in her fantasies about what the messages may mean that the reader starts to wonder what the truth may be, as there are small conflicting bits of information laid out before her.

The novel very smartly deals with many issues which would have affected women during wartime and that period of time in general, for example the status of women in the work place, pay differences between men and women and the methods used to deal with women who were deemed unsuitable for the workplace – all of which will leave you feeling angered. Not only does it touch on women’s issues, it also creates a vivid atmosphere of wartime England during the blackout. It feels dark, and frightening. A veil of secrecy shrouds the entire novel.

The only issues I can think of with this novel are fairly small ones; for example there are a couple of unrealistic interactions, but they are not substantial enough to impact the storyline in a significant manner. Another is that although I could not have guessed the details of the answer to the mystery, it did seem fairly obvious to me from quite early on in the book who was involved – but that didn’t alter the excitement of the conclusion. Lastly, I would really like to know what happens to one of the characters. Their part in the story, unfortunately, is not wrapped up.

I really enjoyed The Amber Shadows, not only because of the intriguing mystery but because it very successfully transports you back in time to the Second World War. The atmosphere draws you in, and keeps you guessing. There is a fine line between reality and Honey’s fantasies in the novel; whether it be stories about her family or how she relates herself to the movies she watches, it is often difficult to tell which parts to believe. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, mystery’s or enjoys fiction based around Bletchley Park.