Author: Jess Lourey
Genre(s): Suspense| Thriller
Page length: 480 pages
Publisher: Midnight Ink
Publication date: September 8, 2016
Author's website: http://jessicalourey.com/
A troubled codebreaker faces an epic plot reaching back through centuries of America’s secret history
Salem Wiley is a genius cryptanalyst, courted by the world’s top security agencies ever since making a breakthrough discovery in her field of quantum computing. She’s also an agoraphobe, shackled to a narrow routine by her fear of public places. When her mother’s disappearance is linked to a plot to assassinate the country’s first viable female presidential candidate, Salem finds herself both target and detective in a modern-day witch hunt. Drawn into a labyrinth of messages encrypted by Emily Dickinson and centuries-old codes tucked inside the Beale Cipher, Salem begins to uncover the truth: an ancient and ruthless group is hell-bent on ruling the world, and only a select group of women stands in its way. Goodreads
WARNING: If you're not a proponent of women's rights, you will not enjoy this book. Then again, if you don't believe in women's rights, you can back the hell away from my blog 'cause ain't nobody got time to deal with your BS.
That being said...
I don't read many thrillers and I never got into the Dan Brown-craze (which seems to be a common comparison), but this was definitely a page-turner for me. The beginning had a bit of a rough start, with some clunky language that never completely goes away, though it does get better as the story progresses. However, once you get past the awkward beginning, you get a compelling, fast-paced story with some fairly complex characters.
Salem, our protagonist, has many flaws but they never make her unlikeable. Not that protagonists, especially female protagonists, have to be likeable, but it's a refreshing change in the era of Gone Girl and Girl on the Train and other books without "Girl" in the title.
In fact, it is because of these flaws that you cheer her on and want to see her overcome all the obstacles in her way. The POV changes several times throughout the book, and there are occasional flashbacks, but the short chapters keep it from slowing down or getting too confusing.
I found the history of code-breaking interesting, but not riveting, which lead to me skimming some parts.
The bad guy is suitably terrifying, the stakes high, and the ending satisfying.
I must also commend Jess Lourey for including two things that are particularly important to me: diversity in the main cast and healthy female relationships. It's very easy for minorities of any kind to be pushed into the background, or not featured at all. And I can't even count the number of books/shows/movies based on the premise that women hate other women. There's none of that here.
Salem is mixed race and her best friend Isabel is a lesbian. Their mothers are inseparable, and so are they. The bonds between the women in Salem's Cipher get tested again and again, but they hold strong. Call me a sap, but I love it.
Final Bite: A flawed yet entertaining read, with an interesting premise and a good lead-in to the next book. Definitely recommended.