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Enigma

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  6,450 ratings  ·  317 reviews
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 labour, the mysterious disappearance of a former girlfriend, the suspicions of his coworkers within the paranoid high ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published January 22nd 2002 by Arrow (first published January 1st 1995)
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Kim

It’s my fault and not Robert Harris’ that I haven’t been able to rate this novel more highly. I bought it a few years ago, on sale at the local bookstore, fresh from having read and enjoyed Imperium. From memory, having seen the movie adaptation a few years previously also influenced my purchase.

The premise is a good one: it’s an espionage story set in Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire, which during World War II was the site of the UK’s main decryption establishment. This is where ciphers gener
...more
Kay Rollison
For many people, Ian Fleming summed up spy stories when he described his own James Bond books as being ‘bang, bang, bang, kiss, kiss, that sort of stuff’. But as with other genres, there is the crude and the subtle, with the best as good as many conventional novels.

On of the good ones is Enigma, by Robert Harris. Harris is an English writer, who, though not aspiring to write the sort of novel that will win a Booker prize is nevertheless an excellent craftsman who tells a clever and convincing
...more
Genia Lukin
The basic idea of this story, like so many of others Harris wrote, is; 'take an interesting historical period, throw in some Noir, mix, add fascinating and beautiful femme fatales to flavour'.

It's a recipe that usually works, but, just like your basic meat-and-potatoes, it's not something you'd serve for a gourmet meal unless you're a really genuinely good chef. Harris is rather more my mother throwing together a nice but not terribly inspiring dinner than the three-star restaurant serving a ste
...more
Will Byrnes
This is a fictionalized view of the British WW II code-breaking enterprise that cracked the German code scheme named Enigma. Set in the out-of-the-way English town of Bletchley. Tom Jericho is a whiz code breaker who was a crucial player in breaking the original Enigma code. But the effort cost him. Just recovering from a breakdown and a broken heart, he is brought back into the code-breaking effort. The Germans are making it tough on the Brits, changing aspects of their coding process to keep o ...more
Lynley
This isn't the sort of book I'd normally pick for myself, which is why I joined a book club, I suppose.

This was the first spy book I've read, and possibly the last for a good while. My one star review is a reflection of the fact I don't find espionage the slightest bit interesting, nor have I ever understood what people see in cryptic crosswords and sudoku. Each to their own.

All that aside, I was prepared to like a book about wartime spies, except even as a non-specialist of the genre, I could
...more
GlenK
Enough time has elapsed since original publication (1995) that I believe this mystery thriller of World War II code breaking can be considered a genre classic. The thriller aspects center on Bletchley Park and efforts to break (rebreak actually) the extremely complex German Enigma codes. Worked into the plot are fascinating details on code breaking in general and the Enigmas in particular. Mystery aspects mostly involve the shadowy figure of Claire Romilly. Who she is, what she has done, where s ...more
Christine Blachford
Plot: Tom Jericho is a brilliant cryptologist, successful in cracking the German’s hardest code Shark. He’s suffering from nervous exhaustion and recuperating in the country but when the code is changed and his girlfriend disappears, he must return to Hut 8 to continue his work, re-crack the code and discover the mystery that surrounds Claire.

Characters: He was an interesting character, but the 1940s is not a period I know very much about, and it’s hard to know what the people were or should hav
...more
Mariah
I found Enigma a compelling page turner. I was able to spend large chunks of time reading which is a plus. Harris weaves a very intriguing mystery into the greater struggle of breaking the Enigma machine. Like Jericho and Hester I really want to know what happened to Claire - even if I don't like her much. I'll never understand the appeal and loyalty these bitchy, self-centered characters demand, but that's another story. I really did want to know not only where she disappeared, but why and beca ...more
Abhinav
Ah, the satisfaction one gets after reading a good, intelligent espionage thriller. And especially if it's after a reasonable period of time.

British author Robert Harris has long been regarded as one of the exponents of the literary thriller genre, and he succeeds in making an impression upon me through 'Enigma', his second novel.

Tom Jericho is a brilliant mathematician & works as a cryptanalyst at Bletchley Park, the institution that houses codebreakers to counter Nazi Germany's coding mach
...more
lindsay
I'm a sucker for anything that involves solving puzzles, so I was pretty sure I was going to like this book when I picked it up. It's a reasonably fast-paced novel that revolves around codebreaking at Bletchley Park during WWII.

The main character, Tom Jericho, is a cryptanalyst who has had a nervous breakdown due to the strain of codebreaking and the end of his relationship with a woman, Claire, who also works at Bletchley Park. However, Jericho is suddenly called back to work when the Germans c
...more
Adam Sprague
When I began this book and after the first chapters I thought for sure I was reading a smaller version of Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon. That sure did change in a hurry.

One of the things I enjoyed the most was the layering of storylines. One part is the coverage of WWII crypto and the other the disappearing of Claire. Unfortunatley (at least for me) the book was about 80% about the missing girl. The longer the book went on the less and less the book became about crpyto and the more it became a
...more
Marie-aimée
Le sujet se présente comme un thriller passionnant : arriver à décoder la fameuse machine Enigma. Sauf que les embrouilles amoureuses du personnage principal prennent le dessus et gâchent mon petit plaisir. C'est un neuneu qui se fait avoir sur un coup classique. C'est comme si l'auteur n'avait pas réussi à conjuguer les deux voies (thriller espionnage/amoureux) sauf vers les derniers chapitres, il y a toujours un petit décalage entre les deux. Ou bien c'est moi qui a lu trop de scénarios d'espi ...more
Archieval
I started to read this early last year, around January 2014, and stopped. I never had the heart to actually finish this one because compared to other Robert Harris novels, this one seemed a bit dull and the story felt like dragging (the numbers and codes and cryptology didn't help, obviously). However, since part of my 2015 checklist is to read all of my dead-tree books, I decided to finish this one. And I can say that it's worth it, this novel has all the elements of a classic Robert Harris: a ...more
Kathy
Robert Harris's book is a fictional telling of Bletchley Park and the people who worked there, and how they broke the German's Enigma code during WWII. While Alan Turing is mentioned often he never actually appears in the book. He's supposedly off in Washington DC.

The hero here is Tom Jericho, a brilliant mathematician, who has just returned to work following a nervous breakdown caused by a split with his girl friend. A massive Allied convoy is headed across the Atlantic and the U-boats are on t
...more
Megan
I really enjoyed this book, and it was a timely reread for me as we have just been to see the film The Imitation Game, which is a representation of Alan Turing's life, played typically awesomely by Benedict Cumberbatch.

Turing makes a brief appearance early in this book, which is tells the story of Jericho, a fictional member of the team of crypto analysts at Bletchley Park during WW2. I have also seen the Kate Winslett/Dougray Scott film, which completely changes the story, but captures the spir
...more
Hannah Ringler
I like spy novels. I like cryptography-related novels, memoirs, and instructional texts. Somehow, I’ve never heard of Robert Harris or his book Enigma, despite the fact that both are pretty well-known and Enigma was actually made into a movie.

Part of that may be because its depiction of Bletchley Park is not, apparently, the most accurate, and generally speaking when I read historical fiction I’m more interested in the history than the fiction part. However, as a work of fiction, it’s an enjoyab
...more
Rachael Hewison
This novel was my saviour in some ways. Before this I read a string of chick-lit books, which had gotten progressively worse. I needed a novel which would include a little thought, intelligence and history to challenge my mind and Enigma certainly delivered that.
Harris had simplified down the work of the code-breakers so it wasn't too hard to follow their roles, although even then some of it did go over my head. He had clearly done his research and at times it felt as though I were reading a non
...more
Arun Divakar
In school, I was the kid who was potentially terrified of mathematics ! The kind of person who would keep working on long winded algebraic equations which finally run into a wall. It is probably a stroke of luck that I managed to pass them all in both my school and college years. This gave me quite a laugh when I was reading this novel for the principle of code breaking lies completely on mathematics and look at me reading this after all these years !

The setting is WWII in a small town in Engla
...more
David Roberts
I am reviewing the world war 2 historical fiction novel Enigma by Robert Harris which is an excellent story which I bought from a car boot sale. This book is based on some true events but part of it is fiction and the characters are fictitious. The story is set in Bletchley Park near the current new town Milton Keynes where during the war they had to crack the enigma code used by the Germans. Britain had a huge amount of goods and cargo transported by ship across the Atlantic from America. Unkno ...more
Charles Vella
There's a lot that's good about this book. It is set in England during the war, and focuses on the people trying to break the Enigma code used by German U-boats. You can learn something about cryptology from reading it if you're so inclined. But unlike the whaling chapters in Moby Dick the cryptology never threatens to take away from the story.

The main character is Tom Jericho, a brilliant mathematician/cryptologist who has folded under the stress and at the beginning of the book is dropped off
...more
Paul
Always avoided these mainstream books, but I saw the film based on the book.

In the film, the Polish character is portrayed as a traitor.

Fact, the Polish mathematicians were the first to break the enigma code, not the British.

I suppose no credit is given to the Poles in the book because Robert Harris is an opportunistic, fame seeking, provincial little Englander who was more concerned about the kitchen sink English drama of the Enigma story rather than addressing its true complexities.

This is wh
...more
Michael Cayley
A novel centred on Bletchley Park where the Enigma code was cracked during WW2. I was not entirely convinced by some of the description of the setting, though Robert Harris does give a sense of the pressure people were working under and a glimpse of how the code breakers went about their work. For me, the background was the most interesting part of the book. The story-line itself has two main threads: the need to crack urgently a more sophisticated version of Enigma; and the disappearance of a w ...more
K.
Despite an unlikely love story serving as the basis of this novel, Robert Harris weaves a provocative and suspenseful tale about the Bletchley Park effort to crack the German Enigma machine during World War II. He did his research and provides the details that make for a fascinating story. I'm a sucker for science and technology playing a major role, and the thought of a mathematician being the hero was just too tantalizing to pass up. And for the most part, it was satisfying and interesting. Ho ...more
Rachel
Harris is awfully slow to build the plot, and his protagonist, the WWII cryptologist Tom Jericho, is too dull to make his inner musings anything more than a chore for the first two thirds of the book, yet there is a superb payoff in the thrilling edge-of-the-seat action of the last third of the book. We are given to understand Tom had a nervous breakdown, brought on either by his incredibly stressful contributions to the war effort, or by being rejected by a a mysterious and beautiful woman, a f ...more
April
What a smart and pleasing page-turner this novel is! What I liked best about is that it felt so very British, in a Foyle's War-type of way. It's damp and tweedy with lots of tea and toast and sadness, which is perfect for a novel about WWII Britain, which must have been one of the worst times and places on earth. It's still a mystery/thriller, of course, but in an intelligential way. I especially liked that it was assumed the reader knew where Bletchley Park was, what the enigma was and how it w ...more
Lianne
Terrific novel, my only gripe being the old lie that Churchill let the Germans bomb Coventry to cover the fact that the British had broken Enigma. I do not believe this to be true.

I first read this novel years ago but it didn't really sink in how really important Bletchley Park was. I have since read several books on this subject, listened to the Bletchley Park podcasts and watched a couple of brilliant documentaries. The more I find out the more fascinating it is.

As a novel I thought it was a g
...more
Margaret
I feel distinctly uncomfortable. Shabby and down-at-heel: cold - always marrow-bone cold: under-fed: exhausted. I've been sucked into the world of Bletchley Park, where the code-breakers spent their war years. I was riveted by the picture painted of the privations of the people who served there. The story gripped me at first too, though by the end I felt I wasn't following its twists and turns as I was intended to. As a piece of social history it's a cracking read. As a thriller, a good story, b ...more
Shona
I loved this. I read it straight after Fatherland, which was my first foray into Harris's wonderful world. Enigma is great and retains that Harris trick of having 'real' people appear in his fiction. In this, I knew Turing had to be around *somewhere* and I was waiting for him to show up! The story is well conceived, characters likeable and believable and the ambiance of the novel is how you imagine life at Bletchley to have been...dark, slightly scary and full of intrigue.

I read this on holiday
...more
Donald
Continuing my love affair with books by Robert Harris, I am not disappointed and quite nostalgic for Old England
Nurul Nadzirin
The beginning is immensely interesting, but it goes downhill very quickly. After the first one-third, the plot suffers from a serious lack of character development & an even more serious lack in substance, in so far as cryptography, mathematics or war history are concerned. At the beginning it feels like a good historical fiction, with interesting insights into the lives of cryptographers of Alan Turing's calibre. Discuss random and complex mathematics every few pages? Awesome. Have a whole ...more
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Robert Dennis Harris (born 7 March 1957 in Nottingham) is a best-selling English novelist. He is a former journalist and BBC TV reporter. He specialises in historical thrillers noted for their literary accomplishment. His books have been translated into some thirty languages
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