The Rose Code

Written by Kate Quinn
Review by Karen Warren

The Rose Code is the story of an unlikely friendship between three very different women working at the Bletchley Park intelligence centre in the Second World War. Osla is a debutante who is romantically involved with Prince Philip of Greece; Mab is a steely and determined East Ender; and Beth, dominated by her bullying mother, turns out to be fiendishly good at puzzles. They are all involved in breaking the German Enigma code, but they are cogs in the machine, each knowing a small part of the riddle, not the whole. A parallel storyline sees the women meeting again in 1947, in a desperate race against time to uncover a traitor. This part of the novel is set against the country’s feverish preparations for the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip.

I found this a fast-paced, enjoyable book. It showed the pressures the codebreakers were under, perfectly capturing the tension, secrecy and paranoia of wartime intelligence. And the characters were well drawn: I found myself rooting for them, despite their flaws. However, I did wonder whether too much space had been given to the Royal Wedding. I could see its relevance (the character of Osla is clearly based on Osla Benning, a one-time girlfriend of Prince Philip), but I didn’t feel it added very much to the story. But this is a minor criticism. The Rose Code is a page-turning mystery, and I couldn’t put it down.