The Killing Code by Ellie Marney (Major Spoilers Ahead)

Title: The Killing Code by Ellie Marney

Genre: Historical, Mystery, Romance


A historical mystery about a girl who risks everything to track down a vicious serial killer, for fans of The Enigma Game and A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder.

Virginia, 1943: World War II is raging in Europe and on the Pacific front when Kit Sutherland is recruited to help the war effort as a codebreaker at Arlington Hall, a former girls’ college now serving as the site of a secret US Signals Intelligence facility in Virginia. But Kit is soon involved in another kind of fight: Government girls are being brutally murdered in Washington DC, and when Kit stumbles onto a bloody homicide scene, she is drawn into the hunt for the killer.

To find the man responsible for the gruesome murders and bring him to justice, Kit joins forces with other female codebreakers at Arlington Hall—gossip queen Dottie Crockford, sharp-tongued intelligence maven Moya Kershaw, and cleverly resourceful Violet DuLac from the segregated codebreaking unit. But as the girls begin to work together and develop friendships—and romance—that they never expected, two things begin to come clear: the murderer they’re hunting is closing in on them…and Kit is hiding a dangerous secret.

Rating: 3.5 Stars


The opening to The Killing Code was interesting for me as it is a World War 2 historical fiction blended with a murder mystery. I like murder mysteries but historical fiction has always been a hit or miss genre with me personally. We are introduced to two girls initially Katherine and Kathleen, Katherine is a upper class young girl at a boarding school in Arlington House but she has suffered with an illness all her life and knowing she is going to die she tells Kathleen, her nurse and maid, to take her identity and live a life she wouldn’t be able to otherwise and she agrees. After Katherine dies Kathleen becomes her and as she is leaving Arlington House since it is now going to be used for the war effort she is offered a job as a code breaker and takes it. Nine months later she is still there and seems to be a very good code reader as she has broken several codes that month alone. However, I am waiting for the murder mystery element to kick in since that is the element I will enjoy more.

As we approach the ¼ mark in the novel, the murder element is introduced and not in the way I was expecting. Kit ends up finding Moya because Dottie hasn’t returned home from a local dance and they think she might have just got drunk rather than something bad happening to her. During their search to find Dottie, kit literally stumbles across the body of Libby another girl from their unit who has been brutally murdered. They go through the process of informing the police and giving their statements and it turns out that Dottie was drugged and left feet from where Libby was murdered and she might have even been the intended target since the outfits she and Libby were wearing w ere very similar. After returning to Arlington House Kit learns that one of the black code breakers, Violet DuLac knows she isn’t who she says she is and blackmails her into helping her. Violet’s friend, Dinah was murdered three weeks ago and she believes that the murders are connected and this is strengthened when she confirms that the glasses Kit saw int he bathroom were Libby was killed belonged to her friend meaning there is a serial killer on the loose and the police aren’t looking into it because of Dinah’s race since America is still very segregated at this point in time so they decide to investigate the murders themselves.

As we cross the ¼ mark in the novel, the girls are now investigating two murders but they do realise they are missing a lot of information that they need to get their hands on to find out the truth behind the killings. Violet is able to get hold of a lot from a friend who works at the hospital where the bodies were taken and they now know that both girls were strangled but stabbed the death, both were raked and both had a Nazi symbol carved onto their body making them think that this man might be American, he might be a serviceman but ultimately he is loyal to the Germans and might even have connections to the Nazi party which makes these murders political in a sense. I didn’t really like the introduction of a potential romance between Moya and Kit since I don’t think it is needed. In some book romances do work well like in A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder but I don’t think it has the right setup here. Kit is also completely unaware of Moya’s attraction to her as she is more focused on the fact that reviews are coming up for their security clearance and her real identity might be discovered so sooner or later she is going to make a run for it but Violet comforts her telling her they will work it out together since both have a lot to lose if this doesn’t work out for them.

As we approach the halfway mark in the novel, there does seem to be much happened. The girls are gathering more information and trying to make contacts, through Moya they end up meeting Raffi who is a reporter working the crime beat to try and get more information on the murders but there doesn’t seem to be anything that they don’t already know. Raffi helps they to see that the killer is targeting parties and he seems to be both rich and connected. This means that they might be attending a local party and they are going to go undercover there but Raffi can only get two tickets. It is decided that Moya and Kit will pose as guests while Dottie and Violet will pose as waitstaff to see if they can get more information. They know the killer is male and young which does narrow down who they are looking for but it doesn’t bring anything new to the table. Raffi also informs them about another death of a government girl but this one doesn’t seem to fit the M.O. of the killer so they out a pin in it for now. The relationship between Moya and Kit has become real with them sharing a heated kiss looking for clothes for Kit for the party but I still don’t think it is necessary for the story. I have a feeling that another murder is going to take place soon or one of the girls is going to be targeted at the party as that is the only way I can see the plot moving right now.

As we cross into the second half of the novel, the girls head to the party and begin talking to a few men that could fit their profile for the killer but they don’t seem to be getting anywhere. Then things begin to go south when Kit is introduced to a man who knows the family of the real Katherine and explains that she is dead prompting Kit to flee. Violet is there to help her and give her somewhere to run to as if this comes out Kit isn’t just falsifying documents she is committing treason and could hang for it. However, an air raid siren prevents her from leaving and she has to explain everything to her friends and Moya which was heartbreaking for her. They decide it is best for Kit to leave on her day off since it wouldn’t be unusual and the soldiers won’t be expecting her back until late anyway. However, at the party another murder. Happened right under their noses and they know that the killer is picking up speed and they have to get ahead of him before someone else is killed. With their profile they do have several suspects to look into and Kit begins talking to Raffi about them since she has nothing else to do but panic and makes a connection to the drowned girl that they wrote off. It turns out she was the first victims and it shows the killers timeline which is becoming shorter with each murder.

As we approach the ¾ mark in the novel, Kit continues with her work as if nothing has happened while investigating the connections between the murders. She knows the killers reset period is becoming shorter now only five days better the killings and they have to get ahead of him if they don’t want anyone else to die. However, Emil who works with them fits the profile completely and was even at the party where the latest victim died and he is my pick for the killer but the girls are overlooking him right now. One night after investigating the first murder and learning the weapon the killer uses Kit is denied entry because of her security clearance and when she is called the next day for her review she knows it is over and that she is going to be hung or go to prison for a long time. However, she makes it through the review because of her fiend and in part Emil who vouched for her along with Moya. Emil is being overly friendly with Kit despite the fact they haven’t really spoken at all during the novel apart from the night Libby died and he was the one who took them to get Dottie form the party and he did say when Moya went it get him that he had only just gone to bed. With less than 20% left in the book I am excited to see who the killer is and how he is caught and I have my money on Emil but Marley could throw a big twist in at the last moment. As we cross into the final section of the novel, there weren’t any big reveals or twists which made it feel a little disappointing towards the end. While I enjoyed the book overall, there wasn’t anything groundbreaking about the book, in fact, historical murder mysteries and historical queer romances have been done to death and there wasn’t anything about The Killing Code to set it apart. Despite that I did enjoy the story and it did have a satisfying although slightly rushed conclusion that I saw coming from around the 3/4 mark which meant I wasn’t surprised or shocked by the ending. If you really enjoy queer historical murder mysteries then The Killing Code might be for you but there isn’t anything I can other than it was a good book but nothing amazing about it.

About the Author:

Ellie Marney is a New York Times bestselling and multi-award-winning crime author who has gone behind the scenes at the Westminster Mortuary in London and interviewed forensic and technical specialists around the world in pursuit of just the right details for her brand of pulse-pounding thrillers.

Her titles include The Killing CodeNone Shall Sleep, the Every trilogy, No LimitsWhite Night and the Circus Hearts series. She has lived in Indonesia, India and Singapore, and is now based in Australia with her partner and their four sons. 

Ellie has been involved in the creation of the national campaign called #LoveOzYA to promote and advocate for Australian YA literature. She contributed to the critically-acclaimed Begin End Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology, and co-runs the popular #LoveOzYAbookclub online. She also co-coordinates an online info-sharing group for Australian women self-publishers. She teaches writing and publishing through Writers Victoria, advocates for Australian women’s writing as a Stella Ambassador in schools, and is a regular speaker at festivals and events.

Author Links: Website Twitter Instagram Goodreads Facebook

Buy it here: Amazon Barnes & Noble Book Depository Indigo IndieBound

I received this review copy for consideration from TBR and Beyond Tours. 

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