Lena Stillman is a codebreaker during World War II. But she hasn’t always been a hero.
During the depression, she robbed banks with Bill Bagley and the Clockwork Gang.
What is she going to do now that the past seems to have caught up with her?
Speakeasy had some interesting elements, but the story suffered from a back and forth narrative and flat characters.
“I spread my papers out in front of me, and at first they all looked the same: a random mix of roman letters divided always into five characters with a space between each set, so no word lengths were revealed. I was searching for any repetitions.” loc 15, ebook.
The story is told from Lena’s perspective and diary entries of one of the members of her old gang.
“Bill Bagley was being punished because he had failed at something for which he possessed genius.” loc 80, ebook.
The back-and-forth storytelling was jarring. I liked the stories separately, but together, it didn’t really work.
They interrupted the flow of each other. I think it might have fit together more smoothly in a Part I/Part II presentation rather than interspersed.
I think Bill Bagley, one of the central characters, didn’t have the depth required to pull off this story.
He’s supposed to be this charismatic, brilliant criminal who inspires the men to risk their lives again and again, and also captures Lena’s heart.
Bagley has some failings, but, initially, there must have been something to him to draw the gang together.
Instead, from the start, he comes off as a volatile jerk.
We meet Bagley as he’s denying the parentage of a child who looks just like him: “This un ain’t mine and don’t tell me again that it is,” he said, thrusting the baby back to a lady with burning red cheeks.” loc 80, ebook.
He doesn’t improve from there.
“I returned from a visit with Bill, received a threatening note from him, and now this. He must have a copy of it and wanted to hold it over my head.” loc 741, ebook.
I guess I just never understood what Lena saw in him.
Also, for a genius code breaker, she doesn’t seem to be able to puzzle out the people around her very well.
“My morals were just not like other people’s, because unlike the somnolent majority I saw society’s problems. In my youth I had been misguided, and picked the wrong way of lashing out against an unfair system. But I had left the gang behind, and found a greater ease in my soul.” loc 1781, ebook.
There’s a twist that occurs during Lena’s code breaking era that I saw coming from miles away. And I’m not particularly good at calling plot twists.
My favorite part of this book were the gang-era years. My heart was in my throat during most of those chapters.
Unfortunately, it couldn’t carry the rest of this novel.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a free digital copy of this book.
Thanks for reading!