Summary and book reviews of The Amber Shadows by Lucy Ribchester

The Amber Shadows

by Lucy Ribchester

The Amber Shadows by Lucy Ribchester X
The Amber Shadows by Lucy Ribchester
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  • Published:
    Aug 2017, 464 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Karen Lewis
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About this Book

Book Summary

During the dangerous days of World War II, Honey Deschamps is spending her days transcribing decrypted messages at Bletchley Park, when she starts to receive bizarrely coded packages. When everyone is keeping secrets, who can you trust?

Bletchley Park, 1942: As World War II rages on, Honey Deschamps sits at her type-x machine, tediously transcribing decrypted signals from the German Army, doing her part to assist the British war effort. Halfway across the world, Hitler's armies are marching into Leningrad, leaving a trail of destruction and pillaging the country's most treasured artworks, including the famous Amber Room - the eighth wonder of the world.

As reports begin filtering into Bletchley Park about the stolen loot, Honey receives a mysterious package, hand-delivered from a man that she has never seen before who claims that he works at the Park as well. The package is postmarked from Russia, and inside is a small piece of amber. It is just the first of several such packages, and when she examines them together she realizes that someone, relying on her abilities to unravel codes, is trying to tell her something.

Honey can't help but fear that the packages are a trap set by the authorities to test her loyalties - surely nothing so valuable could get through the mail during a time of war. And yet, something about the packages reminds her of stories that her brother used to tell her about her absent father, and when her brother is found brutally murdered on his way to visit Honey, she can't help but assume that the events are connected. But at Bletchley Park, secrecy reigns supreme, and she has nowhere to turn for help…

Excerpt
The Amber Shadows

"Damned engines. The way they shudder when they're pulling to a halt. Sets one's teeth on edge." The man in the navy blue suit moves his hands down the serge on his thighs, pulling at the rouser creases. Though it is cold in the carriage, and they are the only two in this compartment, it is also airless. Horsehair stuffing pokes through cracks in the leather seats, making his legs itch. When his trousers are straight he fluffs the collar of his shirt.

Outside the train window the light is starting to fade. A tiny slash of fire signals the end of the sun; the rest of the sky is uniform navy. Where are they? Kent? Have they been rerouted? Have they left Buckinghamshire yet? They must be hours still from London, the fields are too pretty, the air is still too full of pollen.

Opposite him, the other man in the carriage stirs. His suit is cream linen, his hair blond; his voice when he speaks comes out slow and lazy. "You know Stravinsky spent months, ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Ribchester has won literary prizes including a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award, and it is clear why. Compelling historical details vibrate through each chapter, and Ribchester's prose shimmers with nuances unique to Britain and that era.   (Reviewed by Karen Lewis).

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Media Reviews

Historical Novels Review
Suspense, mystery, and intrigue are high in this novel. Ribchester easily transports readers to the past, cleverly hiding clues throughout bits of the story, and creating quite a number of twists and turns throughout...Readers will be kept guessing, and the ending is a surprise. Recommended.

New York Journal of Books
While the mystery itself is compelling, the novel’s most intriguing elements come from depictions of life in England during wartime blackouts and rationing. [Ribchester] builds a realistic setting that makes Honey’s situation informative and believable.

Booklist
Both a quirky satire of WWII spy fiction and a complex, suspenseful story filled with unusual details portraying women’s lives during the war.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Ribchester movingly reflects on trust, illusion, and the stories that connect us to our pasts.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. [Ribchester] convincingly re-creates wartime life and the enclosed world of code-breaking and plays out the suspense in a Hitchcock homage almost worthy of the master.

Library Journal
This sophomore effort by the author of The Hourglass Factory is a fascinating historical mystery that explores issues of secrecy, trust, and families but never impedes the element of almost Hitchcockian suspense.

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Beyond the Book

Bletchley Park

Bletchley Park MansionBletchley Park, the setting for Lucy Ribchester's The Amber Shadows, is situated about an hour's train ride north of London. The estate has been turned into a heritage museum open to the public since 1993.

Bletchley was originally a manor house on about 500 acres with rural outbuildings, but by the 1930s had fallen into disuse. The Secret Intelligence Service, known as MI6, scouted the estate as being a safe distance from London, yet on a direct train line for those in the know to be able to come and go. Here, the British "Government Code and Cipher School" staffed up in relative secrecy. Personnel numbered in the thousands during the war, of which about 75% were women. Enemy messages were intercepted on wireless then decrypted and ...

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