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Enigma Mass Market Paperback – September 1, 1996

4.2 out of 5 stars 177 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A gripping World War II mystery novel with a cryptographic twist, Enigma's hero is Tom Jericho, a brilliant British mathematician working as a member of the team struggling to crack the Nazi Enigma code. Jericho's own struggles include nerve-wracking mental labor, the mysterious disappearance of a former girlfriend, the suspicions of his co-workers within the paranoid high-security project, and the certainty that someone close to him, perhaps the missing girl, is a Nazi spy. The plot is pure fiction but the historical background, Alan Turing's famous wartime computing project that cracked the German U-boat communications code, is real and accurately portrayed. Enigma is convincingly plotted, forcefully written, and filled with well drawn characters; in short, it's everything a good technomystery should be.

From Publishers Weekly

Set during WWII, Harris's latest thriller concerns the British attempt to crack the Nazis' secret codes.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (September 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804115486
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804115483
  • Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 0.8 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (177 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #180,174 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Orrin C. Judd VINE VOICE on October 5, 2000
Format: 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.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
For captivating true life signals intelligence there are several books one can go to, including those by James Bamford on the American system (Puzzle Palace, Body of Secrets) but for really getting into the enormity of the challenges and the thrill of the individual code-breakers when they succeeded, this is the book I recommend.

It completely ignores the enormous contributions made by the Poles (who gave the English two Enigma machines at the beginning of the war) as well as the heroic deeds of Tommy Brown (youngest George Medal winner at 16, survived with code materials taken from a sinking German ship), but I have found no better novel to communicate the absolute goose-bump emotional roller-coaster that the Bletchley Park gang experienced.

If anything, this novel convey a human side to code-breaking that offsets the modern-day obsession with massive computers.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is an intelligent, well-constructed book that had me eagerly turning pages right up until the end. Robert Harris confidently takes us into the world of cryptography and cryptographers, frantically pitting human ingenuity, artificial intelligence, mechanical and electronic "bombes", and "Turin machines" (both the revolutionary precursors of our present-day computers) against predatory German submarines set on devastating merchant convoys in the Atlantic. It is an exciting, informed, and enjoyable read.

The book has been very carefully researched and accurately conveys the bleakness and weaknesses of war-weary Britain in the early 1940s. We are led into the strange and taunt world of Bletchley Park, the WWII center of British cryptographic efforts to crack the various versions of the German Enigma code. Historical fact and personalities (such enigmatic genius Alan Turin) are convincingly interwoven with a multi-leveled story of espionage and betrayal. The writing is excellent; a beautifully told story.

Towards the end of the book there is a quotation from the mathematician G. H. Hardy, "a mathematical proof, like a chess problem, to be aesthetically satisfying, must possess three qualities: inevitability, unexpectedness and economy." What is true of mathematical proofs and chess solutions is also true of good thrillers. Harris has provided us with a brilliantly different espionage book where unexpectedness is present to the final page, and a graceful economy of writing that creates a smooth and enjoyable read. Unlike many books, this is one that I will be rereading next year.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Robert Harris has done it again, after the triumph of Fatherland he has written another masterpiece thriller about the British codebreakers during The Battle of the Atlantic. Harris's hero Tom Jericho is a great mathematician and codebreaker at Bletchley Park who is out of the game due to a nervous breakdown, but is called back to Bletchley Park when the Allies find out that the Germans have changed their codes all of a sudden. The reason Jericho is called back is that since he broke the Germans's code last time, his superiors think he can do it again, but there is another element that puzzles Jericho: The girl he was having a relationship with, Claire Rommily, has stolen some cryptograms and disappeared into thin air! Suddenly the Forign Office begin an investigation on her, is there a spy in Bletchley Park? Jericho (with the help of Claire's housemate Hester Wallace) intends to find out just that. It would be a crime for me to give away any more. One of the things I loved the best in this book is Tom Jericho's character, he is a normal human being. Not Superman (as some of my favourite authors tend to do, Tom Clancy, Frederick Forsyth, Robert Ludlum etc.). He is not particularly good looking(although I hear that Dougray Scott has been cast as him), suave or strong. I believe that with this book, Harris has proved himself to be the succesor to John LeCarre in passing on moral messages without actually writing them out loud! Please continue to delight us Mr. Harris!
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