Thursday, February 23, 2006

Title Enigma
Author Robert Harris
Published 1995, Random House
Category General Fiction
Rating 7/10

Enigma was the machine used by the Germans in WWII for encoding all their communications. It turned language into gobbledy-gook code (the title of this post is an example) which was believed to be unbreakable. The main character of this book is Tom Jericho, a brilliant mathematician who is one of the cryptanalysts who race to break the code before German U-boats have a chance to attack an Allied convoy. Meanwhile, Tom's girlfriend Claire turns up missing--could she be a spy?? Tom teams up with Harriet, Claire's roommate, to figure out what happened to her and to clear her and Tom's names of suspicion.

War thrillers are a genre I usually wouldn't touch with a hundred-foot pole, but this one is so well-written and exciting and well-researched that I'm glad I made the exception. The plot is clever and it just twists, and twists again, and then twists some more. Long after I finished it, I was still trying to figure it all out. A couple years ago it was made into a movie with Kate Winslet, which is pretty good and does a good job of taking the enormously complicated plot and streamlining it into two hours of action.

I've read one other book by Harris, Pompeii, which I liked even more, though that might be partly due my fascination with all things Roman. I've heard that he is currently writing another novel set in Roman times, which I'm definitely going to keep an eye out for.

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