The Messenger Bird

For our code-crazy family, Ruth Eastham’s new novel The Messenger Bird fits in perfectly. Now, it’s not me who is into code. I can barely do crossword puzzles, but some of the others are a lot more competent. So I grabbed this book with both hands when it was offered.

And it will come as no surprise that a book about code features an aspie character. Josh is Nathan’s friend, and he turns out to be very useful when Nathan’s father is arrested for breaking the Official Secrets Act, and the only way to prove his innocence is to solve the trail of clues that his dad hurriedly hints at as he’s being dragged away by intelligence officers.

It’s the friendship that counts for more, though, because Josh and his and Nathan’s other friend Sasha prove to be both brave and loyal when it comes to standing up to danger and to the deviousness of the intelligence services.

Ruth Eastham, The Messenger Bird

This is an incredibly exciting story, and these days no one would be too surprised to find something like this actually happening, close to home.

Nathan’s family live near Bletchley Park, and the trail of clues lead him and his friends there. They look at the Enigma machine, and they learn about the vital war work that went on here in complete secrecy.

They – and the reader – can work out that someone is not who they claim to be, and it’s best not to trust anyone. And how can a woman who’s been dead for sixty years send text messages?

At one point I even saw ghosts, although I suspect that was just me. But I wouldn’t rule them out.

There are two cases of injustice running parallel here; Nathan’s dad’s and that of a woman who worked at Bletchley Park during the war. Both have connections to the cottage where Nathan’s family live, where memories of the war are particularly strong.

Very fascinating book, where the WWII puzzle blends with current security fears. And it’s good to see 13-year-olds with initiative and courage, even when you’re scared of heights and seemingly have nobody you can trust. I hope it will encourage young people to take an interest in the sort of things that went on at Bletchley Park.

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