Interweaving the exciting worlds of gangster molls and World War II espionage, The Substitution Code is a thrilling debut novel from Alisa Smith.
A former but undetected outlaw who ran with Bill Bagley's notorious gang during the Depression, Lena Stillman is now an elite code breaker in a position to know the nation's most strategic secrets. Good under pressure, good at keeping her mouth shut, Lena never had trouble keeping her double lives compartmentalized, at least not until an anonymous source mails her an incriminating diary, and her past becomes too volatile, threatening to burst forth like lava.
Despite mounting fear that her secret past might be revealed, Lena excels at work and her skills attract new, unwanted attention. She is assigned to root out a spy at the Esquimalt base. One of the suspects, Lieutenant Hughes, is Lena's friend -- and maybe more.
Intricate and entertaining, The Substitution Code is a riveting West Coast caper, but like enemy submarines patrolling offshore, deeper issues lurk below. With the violence of war encroaching on Canada's shores, Lena must grapple with her past and use all of her skills, linguistic and otherwise. She discovers that loyalty is simply a form of love. Who knows what causes it -- or what revelations could make it disappear?
“Speakeasy is an entrancing tale of Prohibition-era gangsters, Gatsby-esque living, and wartime intrigue. Mixing real people and events with unforgettable characters and unbelievable exploits, the novel is a true West Coast caper and a winning debut.”
“This first novel is a remarkable leap for a writer who often gets awards for journalism but whose only previous book (the winner of multiple prizes) was The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating. ...she has managed to merge a gangster noir with a feminist spy thriller. ...The result is a satisfying and well-thought-out novel…”
"Thompson's writing here is as informative as ever, particularly on the commercialism of the museum scene and the eerie parallels between the economic clout of the real-world economy's one-percenters and contemporary art institutions' very top tier."