Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Review - - Lady Codebreaker

Lady Codebreaker
by K.D. Alden
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: March 12, 2024
Reviewed by PJ

Grace Smith has never been one to conform to society’s expectations. She flees small-town Indiana to seek adventure—and finds more than she bargained for when she’s hired by an eccentric millionaire to learn codebreaking. Soon she’s using those skills to help head the government’s fledgling cryptanalysis unit.

During Prohibition, Grace takes up the fight against rumrunners—not to mention Al Capone himself. And as the country careens from one Great War to another, it’s Grace who must crack the secrets of foreign governments, catch spies, and derail saboteurs . . . before it’s too late.

With wry wit and sheer grit, she forges her own path as a codebreaker, wife, mother. She’s spent a lifetime going up against powerful men and winning. But as war rages and the stakes grow impossibly high, Grace faces a truly impossible choice: her family or her country?

PJ's Thoughts:

When a book keeps me eagerly flipping pages until the wee hours of the night then sends me scurrying down internet rabbit holes to uncover all the information I can find about the real woman upon whom it's based, that's a book I'll be encouraging all my friends to read. 

Spanning four decades (1917 - 1958), Lady Codebreaker is a seamless blend of fact and fiction based upon the life of Elizebeth Smith Friedman, widely recognized as America's first female cryptanalyst and instrumental in key events within 20th century American history. Opening the book in 1958 with a startling scene that hooked me immediately, the book then goes back to 1917 where it all began for main character Grace (and real life Elizebeth) and takes readers on a fascinating, sometimes dangerous, frequently suspenseful, ride through two world wars, Prohibition, inter-agency intrigue, and the evolution of a unique marriage (for the era) as well as an extraordinary career. One of my favorite parts of the book was watching how Grace and Robert evolved over the course of four decades, both in their personal relationship as well as their individual careers. This is not only a story of intrigue and suspense. It is also a complex, deeply emotional love story told in such a way that I felt as if I was right there with them through every peak and valley, wholly invested in their love, their health, their happiness, and their success. 

Alden brought both the characters and settings to life on the pages of this book, immersing me into the smoke-filled decoding rooms, tense family altercations, sparkling dinner parties, danger-filled Coast Guard raids, hospital psychiatric wards, and much more while shining her spotlight on a variety of topics including mental illness, inter-faith marriage, power hunger, and the inequality between women and men of the time. Key among those topics is the hurdles Grace, and other women in her field, were constantly forced to overcome simply because they were women; how they were patronized, dismissed, yet continued to give their all in support of their country when they knew they would not be the ones credited for their work. Alden took her time with each of them, giving the women - and some men also - distinct personalities, layers, and texture, making me care about them. The villains (both fictional and real) are also vividly portrayed, eliciting emotions in Grace (and me) that ranged from distaste to fear to outright revulsion. There may also have been cheering when justice prevailed, especially when due to Grace's efforts. 

If you enjoy compelling historical fiction that incorporates a fascinating blend of actual events and people with those of the author's imagination, that immerses you in our nation's history, and puts a human face on events you may have learned in class as well as those you discover in this book, give Lady Codebreaker a try. I couldn't put it down. 

Note: Once you finish reading the book, do look up the real Elizebeth Smith Friedman and William F. Friedman upon whom Grace and Robert are based. What they accomplished in support and defense of the citizens of the United States was amazing. 


  1. I have read about this woman. She was a truly impressive talent. It is rather sad that is has taken so many years for her to receive the recognition she deserves. Thanks for this review.

    1. I agree, Annette. It's a shame that the bulk of praise and recognition for her work has come after her death.

  2. Thanks for the review. Passing this along to my husband. The code breakers are a favorite topic and he has read quite a bit about Elizebeth Smith Friedman.

    1. I hope he enjoys the book. It is a fictional retelling but most of the events and facts covered in the book actually happened.

  3. Replies
    1. It is! I learned so much and now I want to know more. :)

  4. Sounds so good!! Need to check my local library for this one!

  5. I love learning while enjoying a novel.

  6. Thanks so much for the review of this book and the links to the bios. I read them both and found them most interesting. There have been so many good books coming out that are set around WWII. This definitely sounds like on of the better ones. It is going on my Wish List.