cover image Enigma


Robert Harris. Random House Inc, $23 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-679-42887-9

Harris's follow-up to his bestselling fiction debut, Fatherland, is a high-adrenaline thriller set at Bletchley Park, the remote, ultra-secret WWII British codebreaking center. In February 1943, having just cracked the key to the confoundingly complex Nazi code known as Shark, Thomas Jericho, an unworldly young academic, returns to his old digs at Cambridge to recuperate from nervous exhaustion and a broken heart. But Jericho has time to regain only a modicum of strength before he is pressed back into service to break the latest Nazi code--the putatively impregnable Enigma, generated on Germany's diabolical new four-rotor encrypting machines. Returning to Bletchley Park, the young cryptanalyst fleetingly encounters Claire Romilly, his faithless lover, before she vanishes into the night. Meanwhile, in the Atlantic, three huge U.S. merchant marine convoys are steaming directly into a killer-pack of Nazi U-boats; unless Jericho can crack Enigma, the ships and their precious cargo of supplies and munitions will be destroyed. The situation complicates, with intimations of treason and chicanery at high levels, when Jericho discovers hidden in Claire's room four unencrypted intercepts that coincide with sudden radio silence from the Nazi subs. Aided by Claire's roommate, Hester Wallace, Jericho must battle clandestine interference from Britain's wartime hierarchy as he races to break the cypher, and to find out the secret of Claire's fate. Superbly drawn characters skulking through atmospherically grim settings hallmark this novel, a rare mix of cerebral and visceral thrills that features risky exploits complementing the exhilarating challenge--to both Jericho and the reader--of solving daunting puzzles within puzzles. It doesn't take a Jericho to decode where this book is headed: right on to the bestseller lists. BOMC featured selection; major ad/promo; author tour. (Oct.)