The Physicists’ Daughter comes out on Tuesday. Unusually, I’ll be featuring it again on Friday, when I interview the author for her blog tour. So for once, I’ve read an ARC ahead of schedule!

Physicist's Daughter

The Physicists’ Daughter

by Mary Anna Evans

The Nazis are no match for the physicists’ daughter.

New Orleans, 1944

Sabotage. That’s the word on factory worker Justine Byrne’s mind as she is repeatedly called to weld machine parts that keep failing with no clear cause. Could someone inside the secretive Carbon Division be deliberately undermining the factory’s war efforts? Raised by her late parents to think logically, she also can’t help wondering just what the oddly shaped carbon gadgets she assembles day after day have to do with the boats the factory builds…

When a crane inexplicably crashes to the factory floor, leaving a woman dead, Justine can no longer ignore her nagging fear that German spies are at work within the building, trying to put the factory and its workers out of commission. Unable to trust anyone—not the charming men vying for her attention, not her unpleasant boss, and not even the women who work beside her—Justine draws on the legacy of her unconventional upbringing to keep her division running and protect her coworkers, her country, and herself from a war that is suddenly very close to home. [goodreads]

My Review

The Physicists’ Daughter is an orphan, but she’s a grown woman, working at a factory making secret who-knows-what to help the war effort. Having been raised by two deeply scientific parents, she has trouble relating to her peers. This sounds a lot like Lessons in Chemistry, but with a completely different approach and outcome. This is a thriller, and a mystery, although we are given a few more clues than Justine gets thrown at her. We get some insights into one, or more, people who may be goodies, baddies, or something in between.

This is a masterfully constructed web of deceit and withheld information. The most interesting part of the clue-laying lies with Justine’s clandestine visits to her estranged aunt, who seems just a little bit paranoid. And just because she’s paranoid, doesn’t mean that people aren’t out to get her–and Justine through her.

And Justine does make friends–through the unlikely joint interest in maths–of a girl with little or no schooling who is as bright as they come. The balance of plot that runs through both of their lives helps to keep this tale from the dry, uninteresting one it could have been, to a vibrant, girls-still-want-to-have-fun even in the war years. With the threat of a defeat looming over US heads, everyone wants the work the women make–or do they?

Minor quibble

I had one quibble: the code Justine solved was too easy (the author made too long an explanation of it). Then I remembered that I’d used the same code in book 2 of the Princelings series. I just assumed every boy and girl knew of it by age 10. Maybe they don’t get educated in these things these days. (Wonder Book of Knowledge, I think code-breaking was in). Anyway, Justine had translated the code into letters from pin pricks in a panel to get to the easy bit. So she’d passed the real test first.

So, yet another excellent book from my reading list this year. The Physicists’ Daughter is a truly interesting, intelligent, historical mystery with a touch of romance. I’m looking forward to the author’s next book (which may be a sequel).

And don’t miss the interview with her on Friday.

Book Review | The Physicists' Daughter by Mary Anna Evans 'a truly interesting, intelligent, historical mystery with a touch of romance' #WW2 #secretagent #codebreaking #ThePhysicistsDaughter Share on X

Book Review | The Physicists’ Daughter by @maryannaevans
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3 thoughts on “Book Review | The Physicists’ Daughter by @maryannaevans

  • 4 June, 2022 at 3:00 pm

    Sounds like a really interesting read, Jemima. My husband actually knew a female Jewish physician in Germany who was not sent off to a concentration camp because she treated so many of the Gestapos families. When they did finally come to take her and her son, she asked who would be around to take care of them when they got sick. They left. As a physician, she had no choice in terms of who she treated.

    • 4 June, 2022 at 6:44 pm

      That sounds like a story someone should write!

  • 7 June, 2022 at 6:11 am

    Sounds like an interesting read.

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