Customer Review

48 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars another thoughtful thriller, October 5, 2000
This review is from: Enigma (Mass Market Paperback)
In his terrific speculative thriller, Fatherland, Robert Harris plopped us down in the middle of an alternate reality where Nazi Germany had won a stalemate with the United States and Hitler was about to celebrate his 75th birthday in 1964. The book was plausible and very exciting, but best of all it confronted readers with the similarity between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union and implicitly asked why the west fought one and aided the other. Now, in Enigma, he shows that he can work equally effectively against the backdrop of actual events and still broach big ideas.
It's February, 1943 and Tom Jericho, a brilliant young Cambridge mathematician and protégé of Alan Turing, has already suffered one nervous breakdown under the pressure of working to break secret Nazi codes. Now he's summoned back to Bletchley Park because the U-boat code, known as Shark, which was previously decrypted due to an epiphany of his, has suddenly been changed just as an enormous supply convoy from America is setting out for Britain. Despite his delicate mental state, it's felt that he'll be valuable just for his totemic value and to reassure the higher-ups that all the best men are working on the problem.
Complicating matters is the disappearance of Jericho's ex-girlfriend, Claire Romilly, who it appears may have tipped off the Germans that their codes had been cracked. At any rate, some must have betrayed this vital secret, and, even as the supply convoy sails towards one of the biggest U-boat wolfpacks ever assembled, Jericho sets out to discover who the traitor is and where Claire has disappeared too.
The author too manages a difficult feat as he balances the mystery plot with healthy dollops of WWII history and cryptographic technique. Jericho's quest for Claire is exciting enough, but it's the details about the Enigma machines, which produced what the Nazis believed to be an unbreakable codes, and the British success in breaking them anyway, which really make for fascinating reading. Then, as if that weren't enough, when Harris introduces the reason that someone at Bletchley would assist the Nazis, he returns to some of the troubling moral and geopolitical questions that he first raised in Fatherland. It all makes for a thoughtful thriller that entertains, enlightens and provokes the reader.
GRADE : A-
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 6, 2010 8:17:20 PM PST
I enjoyed this book very much a few years back. Now I am looking forward to seeing Roman Polanski's film The Ghost Writer, based on Harris's The Ghost.
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