The Silk Code by Deborah Swift Review
WW2 Secret Agent #1
112,375 words, 352 pages, 43 chapters 7hrs and 30mins to read
Published by HQ Fiction GB
4.46 out of 5 on Goodreads
Our Rating: 4 out of 5
The Silk Code, by Deborah Swift, is an historical fiction novel, set during the later years of World War Two. 1943 to be precise, where the odds seemed stacked against the Allied forces. The Novel is based on the story of ‘Englanspiel’ – which was the counterintelligence operation organised by Abwehr (German Military Intelligence), where they successfully captured Allied resistance agents that were operating in the Netherlands. They used the agents’ codes to dupe the UK’s organisation, the Special Operations Executive (SOE) into carrying on with their sending of agents, weapons and supplies into the Netherlands.
The story is the first novel of Swift’s WW2 Secret Agent series that was published in May, 2023. This follows Nancy Callaghan as she decides to uproot her life after a break-up with her fiancée, and join in with the war effort. She joins the SOE and is assigned into solving the “indecipherables” of the scrambled messages from the agents in the field. It’s not long until they believe that there is a traitor in the SOE, and soon Nancy is trained to go out into the field herself…
SPOILERS MAY BE AHEAD. READ AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION!
What’s Bad About The Silk Code?
As with many of our reviews we like to start with things we didn’t like. And with The Silk Code, I am going to begin with the love interest between Nancy and Tom. It felt very rushed, and as you read further into the novel, it feels more like it had to be done in order for some scenes to be able to take place – or even solved. Nancy, having just broken off her engagement with Andrew, and moving into London for work, and swearing off romance for a bit to be able to properly move on from Andrew, seems to fall in love with the very first guy she meets, Tom. Both swearing to themselves that it can not be, with Nancy saying it’s too soon and Tom saying fraternising is wrong, they just can’t stay away. It feels odd and frustrating to go through these scenes when I feel the story would be so much better if we could actually follow Nancy and not be distracted by the boys. Focus more on the espionage and code-breaking side of things. Their relationship didn’t make much sense to me, and with their constant attempts at pulling back when their actions only took them one small step forward.
That wasn’t the only thing that felt rushed during the reading of this novel. I found the training periods over and done with in the blink of an eye. Both times. It would have been interesting to dive more into some of the training aspects. Develop some of the relationships (not that one), and explore more about some of the other trainees that Nancy is with. It feels like she is sent into occupied Holland without any much preparation – maybe that was how it really was back then. There was a war on and time was of the essence. And with the same swing, I feel that some parts really dragged on. Where too much focus was spent on parts of the story that really didn’t add much to the overall aspect. And because of this, to begin with especially, it was slow to get going.
What’s Good About The Silk Code?
Now let’s get to the good stuff, and why, after all the cons, I am still giving this book 4 stars. Overall, I found this book to be very well researched. As I was reading, I found myself looking more into the actual Silk Code that is used throughout, more into the SOE and about the German Counterintelligence Operation ‘Englanspiel’. And to me, that’s the makings of a good book with a good story, if you find yourself being interested in what is happening that you do look more into the history and the expanded history of all involved within. Because of this, I found that when the novel was good, it was really good. And for the most part this was more than it was not. I enjoyed reading as they deciphered some of the codes, as Nancy went undercover in occupied Holland and the double crossing and even triple crossings that occurred. This was all during the second half of the book, where it really picked up speed and I found this to be really captivating. The challenges that Nancy had to face, deciding who she would be able to trust while in Holland. And it does not always work out. The stakes were high, and this kept my attention hooked through to the finish line.
Nancy was a great character to follow, her transition from the classic “wifey” material to the strong fighter that she becomes was done well, nothing was too forced and or rushed in how she became the woman she ends up as. You always see a part of who she was to remind you that this is still the same person, that Deborah Swift hadn’t just replaced Nancy with someone else pretending to be her. Tom was also an interesting character to read about, his ambition and determination to get the codes updated to the most secure and safest method was admirable to read about, he worked hard for his result.
Overall, The Silk Code is a well researched and executed tale of espionage and codebreaking during the Second World War.
Ignoring my feelings on the love dynamic of the novel – which does help further the plot along in places and gives cause for certain scenes to take place (this does not feel forced in any way), this is a great read. While some parts did feel rushed, overall it flowed well and during the second half I was hooked. The stakes were high and the fact that this was happening during the war and based on a real code it felt believable and genuine. A great start to a new series by Deborah Swift, WW2 Secret Agent.
If you are a fan of spies, codebreaking and war stories then this will be a perfect addition to your catalogue and this won’t disappoint. It’s the beginnings of what I’m sure will be a good little series by Deborah Swift.
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