This is an absolutely gripping historical mystery set during the Second World War, and one which I read in one sitting as I just couldn’t put it down!
Olive and her brother Cliff are evacuated to the Devon coast after it becomes unsafe for them to remain in London as the air raids are becoming more and more frequent. Trying to find her sister during such an air raid, Olive makes a surprising discovery … one that is to resonate throughout the story and which leads her to question her sister, the sister who has now gone missing … leaving Olive with a coded message, one she is determined to decipher.
Once in Devon, intrigue ensues and mysteries abound as Olive uncovers a secret mission led by those who take her and her brother in. Late night meetings behind closed doors, mysterious communications, maps, foreign words and furtive conversations. Olive is determined to solve the mystery whilst living in the lighthouse run by Ephraim who she suspects is more than just a lighthouse keeper, and may know more about her sister than he is admitting. She stumbles on discoveries that lead her on a daring mission to save others who are in terrible danger.
Olive is a wonderful young girl: she is clever, resilient, kind and likeable, but is also capable of making mistakes and taking actions which she later regrets. The development of her relationship with Esther, the young Jewish girl who has come to England on the Kindertransport, from enemies to friends is so credible. Esther is angry and resentful having lost her home and family and is finding it incredibly difficult to adjust to her new life. As they find they have something in common, and both aim to help those in need, the girls’ friendship strengthens.
The portrayal of prejudice in a community and how quickly this can turn to fear and hatred is powerfully shown. Both Olive and Esther show great courage and strength in challenging these prejudices from both children and adults, prejudice born of fear and ignorance.
This is historical fiction at its pinnacle. It is a story of mystery and revelation, of loss and hope, of togetherness and separation, of prejudice and enlightenment. It is a story of ordinary people determined to offer help to those in great need … what a powerful message!