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Us Conductors by Sean Michaels
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It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (August 07, 2017)
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The Unbreakable Code: 08/05/17

The Unbreakable Code  by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman

The Unbreakable Code by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman is the second of the Book Scavenger series. Emily and James get pulled into a challenge to break the cursed unbreakable code — a cypher associated with a number of mishaps, including the sinking of the Niantic. While they are hunting down clues to break the code, an arsonist who calls themselves the Phoenix is starting fires around San Francisco and someone is bound to get hurt.

Although I live in the Bay Area (in the East Bay with a view of the San Francisco skyline), I'm not familiar enough with the City to always know when something in a novel is based on reality or not. The Unbreakable Code pushed the boundaries of what I knew and what I had to look up.

The book has essentially three timelines: the one of the children in the present where they are trying to decipher the code, their teacher's past (because he seems to be involved in some shady business), and the history of the code itself which includes stops at the Maritime Museum, Treasure Island, and Angel Island, as well as a fictional mound of rocks in the Bay (though there are a couple possible real life inspirations).

I'm familiar with the history of Treasure Island and it's many uses over the years. Likewise, I know about Angel Island's unpleasant role in Chinese immigration. I know that ships are buried under parts of the City as landfill. I was not, though, familiar with the Niantic. To me, Niantic is just the maker of games like Pokémon Go. But before it was the name of a local tech company, it was the name of a ship.

This time, main code of the book, isn't one that can be figured out until Emily and James learn certain things and are able to reveal more about the cypher. There's not as much opportunity to jump ahead of them in the puzzle solving.

The modern day arsonist plot was the most compelling part of the book for me in that they are a dangerous person who is moving in the same circles as the protagonists. There are two scenes with near misses for them — one in the middle of the book, and one at the climax.

Per an answer posted on Goodreads, Bertman is working on book three now. It's scheduled for publication sometime in 2018.

Five stars

Comments (2)

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Comment #1: Sunday, August 06, 2017 at 23:27:53


This sounds very good. I really enjoy puzzle stories! Thanks for sharing.

Comment #2: Sunday, August 06, 2017 at 21:13:00


It's a great series. You should also read The Book Scavenger.

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