First Lines: "Damned engines. The way they shudder when they're pulling to a halt."
Honey Deschamps spends her days transcribing decrypted messages at Bletchley Park, a critical area to the war effort where each worker's behavior can be scrutinized, so it's very unsettling when Honey starts receiving strange coded packages. Reports have come through about Hitler's troops marching into Leningrad, looting Russia's most treasured works of art-- including the Amber Room, often considered to be the eighth wonder of the world.
The packages Honey is receiving are postmarked Russia, and each contains a piece of amber. The delivery person is a man claiming to work at Bletchley, too, but Honey has never seen him before. Who is she going to trust? The pieces of amber contain a code that someone is counting on Honey to unravel. Although these objects remind Honey of stories her brother told of their absent father, every instinct she has tells her that this whole thing is a trap. What on earth is she going to do?
I came to The Amber Shadows with a great deal of anticipation. So many things to like: the World War II setting of Bletchley Park, code breaking, the fabled Amber Room that was dismantled by the Nazis and still hasn't been found.... The author did deliver on one important part: the setting. Of all the books I've read, Lucy Ribchester has done the best job of showing readers what it was like to live in England through the Blitz-- trying to navigate in pitch darkness with no street signs for guidance, how to dress or eat with strict rationing going on, and how miserable it could be when you're billeted with people who don't want you in their house. This part of the book is excellent.
However, I didn't find much to like about the rest. One of the major themes of the book was the real versus the artificial and the danger of creating a fantasy when you don't like the life you've been dealt. The way it was handled seemed very muddled to me, and it was difficult for me to keep my mind on the story. It also didn't help one iota when the only characters who seemed to have any real intelligence and/or common sense were secondary ones who were seldom seen.
The Amber Shadows is a slow-moving tale that I just couldn't warm up to. Hopefully, your mileage will differ.
The Amber Shadows by Lucy Ribchester
Pegasus Books © 2017
eBook, 464 pages
Historical Mystery, Standalone
Source: Net Galley