August 2, 2022
by Sara Ackerman
Harlequin / HarperCollins
Historical Fiction
Paperback, 384 pages
"Sara Ackerman never disappoints!"
­-Kate Quinn

"Beautifully structured and well-told with authentic historical detail . . . another top historical novel by Ackerman."
-Booklist (starred)
A brilliant female codebreaker. An “unbreakable” Japanese naval code. A pilot on a top-secret mission that could change the course of WWII.

The Codebreaker's Secret is a dazzling story of love and intrigue set during America’s darkest hour.

1943. As the war in the Pacific rages on, Isabel Cooper and her codebreaker colleagues huddle in “the dungeon” at Station HYPO in Pearl Harbor, deciphering secrets plucked from the airwaves in a race to bring down the enemy. Isabel has only one wish: to avenge her brother’s death. But she soon finds life has other plans when she meets his best friend, a hotshot pilot with secrets of his own.

1965. Fledgling journalist Lu Freitas comes home to Hawai'i to cover the grand opening of the glamorous Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Laurance Rockefeller's newest and grandest project. When a high-profile guest goes missing, Lu forms an unlikely alliance with an intimidating veteran photographer to unravel the mystery. The two make a shocking discovery that stirs up memories and uncovers an explosive secret from the war days. A secret that only a codebreaker can crack.
Dear Reader,

I’m so excited to share with you the fifth novel in my Pearl Harbor collection, The Codebreaker’s Secret. The idea for this book came while researching my novel Radar Girls. I always have my 'radar' up for interesting wartime stories, and when I happened upon a major incident in the Pacific that I had never heard of, my heart just about stopped. But as often is the case, this important event only involved men, as it was on the battlefront. As much as I tried, I couldn’t figure out how to create a story around this top-secret operation.

Nevertheless, I ordered a book to learn more, and in that book, when the author mentioned the codebreakers who played an instrumental role, a light bulb went off in my head. A female codebreaker! I always love that feeling when an idea comes and you know you’re onto something. 

The second part of the storyline arose from a desire to try my hand at a dual timeline novel. I’ve been wanting to explore how the survivors were faring after the war, and how their often traumatic experiences shaped their lives. For the setting, I chose the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel because it sits on a stretch of coastline used by the military during the war to train and also to relax, and an idea began to form around the grand opening, which was only twenty years after the end of the war. It was feasible that at least one veteran would be there. Another reason for choosing the hotel is that it is one of my favorite places. As a young girl, when we would visit our grandparents on the Big Island, we’d always come down to the hotel for brunch and to swim and bodysurf at the gorgeous white sand beach. Later, I worked on the beach teaching standup paddleboard lessons and taking people out in canoes to whale watch or swim with the manta rays at night.

I call this early phase of brainstorming my "Big Idea Phase", when I usually walk around in a daze and stare out the window for extended periods of time, take lots of beach or forest walks, and go on long drives. Daydreaming plays a huge role for me, as it allows my subconscious to sort things out. Weaving together several different stories into one cohesive novel can be daunting, but when it all comes together, it is so fun and so satisfying. I love how this one turned out, and I hope you will too.

Happy reading!


Sara Ackerman
Book Club Menu and Recipe
Mango Bread: Summertime in Hawai’i is mango season. My father loved to bake, and he passed on this delicious mango bread recipe to me. Some of my favorite memories are of picking mangos off his tree, peeling, chopping, and making up a big batch of mango bread, and then sharing loaves with the neighborhood. In The Codebreaker’s Secret, near the end of the book, we get a taste of this famous mango bread. Enjoy it for breakfast, as a snack, or for dessert with a dollop of coconut ice cream.

“The old mango tree stood at least seventy feet tall. Every season without fail, it delivered truckloads of mangos. She made mango bread, mango chutney, mango ice cream, mango mochi and still had tons to spare. So much so, that by August, she couldn’t even look at another mango.”
The Fredrico: Though this drink was not around in the 1960s when my book takes place, it has become THE drink of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. Sweet but not too sweet, with rum, Jack Daniels, pineapple, passion fruit, guava, orange juices, and grenadine, it is the perfect companion on a warm sunny day–or if you want to pretend it’s a warm sunny day!

Pineapple Pizza: On the northwest side of O’ahu, you have to pass through “the pineapple fields,” which are on lands surrounding Schofield Barracks and Wheeler Army Airfield, to get down to the coast. Wheeler was attacked by the Japanese on December 67 1941, along with Pearl Harbor and other bases around the island, and has significance in The Codebreaker’s Secret. The pineapple fields have been there for as long as I can remember and are a sort of marker to let you know when you’re almost to the North Shore, aka the Country. Lately, pineapple pizza has become synonymous with Hawaiian pizza and also happens to be one of my favorite foods. I could eat homemade pizza every night of the week. It's often served with ham: vegetarians can substitute large chunky tomatoes or red onion for the ham.

Lilikoi Cheesecake: Growing on the slopes of Hualalai, one of the volcanoes on the Big Island where Lu was raised, you’ll find wild passion fruit —we call it lilikoi here in Hawai’i—vines crawling over old rock walls, up trees, and along fences. Mostly the fruit is yellow, but there is also a purple variety that is just as delicious. A favorite dessert in the islands is lilikoi pie or cheesecake. There is a scene in the book that mentions lilikoi— but it’s a spoiler, so you’ll just have to read to find out! If you aren’t into making cheesecake crust, try Jamie Oliver's yummy Upside Down Passion Fruit Cheesecake Pots.

Frozen Chocolate Banana Sticks: If you're unable to get a hold of any lilikoi, try a recipe for frozen chocolate banana sticks, which will help you conjure up the feeling of being in Hawai’i and summer vibes. The prep can be a little messy, but the end result is worth it.


-Sara Ackerman

Breakfast, Snack, Dessert: Mango Bread

Drinks: The Fredrico

Dinner: Pineapple Pizza

Dessert: Lilikoi Cheesecake or Upside Down Passion Fruit Cheesecake Pots, Frozen Chocolate Banana Sticks
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