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3.87  ·  Rating details ·  13,238 ratings  ·  650 reviews
A member of a top-secret team of British cryptographers, Tom Jericho succeeds in cracking "Shark," the impenetrable operational cipher used by Nazi U-boats, but when the Germans change the code, Jericho must break the new code before the traitor among his group can stop him. Reprint. ...more
Paperback, 374 pages
Published September 1st 1996 by Ballantine Books (first published September 11th 1995)
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Average rating 3.87  · 
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 ·  13,238 ratings  ·  650 reviews

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Will Byrnes
Robert Harris - image from BBC Radio

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 aspe
Apr 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller
What a book! An excellent read for the Goodreads Mystery and Thriller Week (April, 2019)!

Robert Harris is a gifted storyteller and his books never disappoint.

Anyway let us come to the review now. Enigma takes us to the arcane world of cryptographers working tirelessly at Bletchley Park in Britain during the World War II. Alan Turing’s legendary computing project to break the German Enigma code forms the background of the novel. When we think about wars we usually remember Generals and soldiers,
Sam Quixote
Sep 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enigma: the Nazis’ unbreakable encryption machine used to send coded messages throughout their armed forces. Secretly broken by the Allies and monitored by the geniuses at Bletchley Park, England, the Nazis’ suspicions lead them to change Enigma’s settings so that the Allies find themselves locked out in the winter of 1943 - just as an immense fleet leaves New York with precious supplies for the Allied war effort. The convoy is headed into North Atlantic waters teeming with U-Boats and no idea o ...more
Apr 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Robert Harris followed up his brilliant debut novel 'Fatherland' with 'Enigma' set during WWII in Britain with Bletchley Park (as then top secret) code breaking facility as its backdrop and named after the German mechanical cipher (Enigma) machines.

Whilst not perhaps quite as strong or consistent as 'Fatherland' this is nevertheless an excellent historical thriller, very evocative of the era and creating a great sense of authenticity and tension throughout. Robert Harris displays his (by now) us
Jul 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
This one's a melancholy British mystery, set at the Bletchley Park codebreaking headquarters during World War II. Robert Harris is one of my "top dogs" in the world of popular fiction, and I'm pleased to say Enigma did not disappoint. A few random thoughts:

I'm not sure which audience Harris was aiming at when he wrote this book, but it certainly has a wide appeal. Harris's loyal fans will admire the novel's historical accuracy and seamless plotting, while World War II buffs will be spellbound a
Lewis Weinstein
Jul 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
An excellent historical novel based on the incredible actual story of Bletchley Park and the decrypting of the Enigma codes used by the Germans before and during WWII. This was of particular interest to me because we visited Bletchley this past summer and could appreciate the well described horrible physical conditions under which so much valuable work was carried out. Also, the breaking of the Enigma codes by Polish mathematicians, acknowledged only decades later by the Brits, is an important p ...more
Feb 21, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, spy-fiction-etc
A solid effort from Robert Harris as he once again gives us an insight into historical events. I couldn't give anymore than two stars because it didn't blow me away like Fatherland did. It was just good. My only gripe is the amount of info dumping he fits into some of his chapters. Sometimes it's code breaking language overload! ...more
Jun 09, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mt-tbr-challenge

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
Terence M
I read this book when it was first published as a paperback and the story today, twenty years later, is as interesting as it was then, but the circumstances surrounding the story seem scarier now than they were. The horrors of Hitler and WWII seem magnified by the passing of time and one can only wonder what the world would be like today if the hundreds of dedicated folks at Bletchley Park had not cracked the Enigma Code and, more importantly, had not been able to keep that fact a secret from th ...more
Jill Hutchinson
I'm a little bit on the fence with this, the second book, by Harris. I truly enjoyed his debut novel, Fatherland and had great expectations for this one as well, especially since the subject of Ultra and Enigma are of great interest to me. But somehow, it fell just a little short.

I will not go into the plot except to say that there may be a traitor at work in Bletchely Park who could expose the secrets of the breaking of the German Enigma code, The major protagonist, Tom Jericho....and in fact a
Two mid-level protagonists in a closed environment, a wartime secret unearthed ... by inevitable comparison between two WWII novels, Fatherland comes out on top. I wish I liked this story better, for the Enigma background is solid, rotors spinning and women auxilaries kept in the dark as the smell of overheated circuits drifts. Also, the nerdy protagonist doesn't get the girl and The Girl isn't the hottie. Perhaps I expected a bigger impact of their actions upon the course of the war, but, as i ...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
Jamie Collins
Jun 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like the Kate Winslet movie, so I went looking for the book it’s based on. The movie added a bit more action and romance, but otherwise it’s very close to Harris’s story. In fact, I rather wish the book had been longer and more detailed. I had assumed that the mystery was simplified for the movie, but it turns out that’s how it’s written.

The author says that while the characters are fictional, the book is set “against the background of an actual historical event” and “the German naval signals
Solidly written historical mystery set during WW11 about a group of Codebreakers stationed at Bletchley Park. The primary character Tom Jericho is a Mathematician who becomes caught up in a web of deceit and traitors.

Enjoyed the historical detail even though it took a while to assimilate some of the terms used. Also enjoyed the twists and turns while the traitor was being unmasked. From the Guardian 1000 list.
Lyn Elliott
Jul 17, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, thrillers
I’ve just re-read this inadvertently, thought the plot was familiar but then I might have seen a film adaptation, and in any event I’m familiar with the Enigma story.

Again I’d give it 3.5, but it was a perfect quick read in between some solid stuff.

No mental effort required.

It's a while since I read a WWII spy thriller, and this one has a nice twist. I'd give it 3.5 if the half marks were possible. The world at Bletchley is portrayed in a way that leaves vivid images of hectic activity,
Dec 21, 2016 rated it liked it
It took me quite a long time to get into this book. I think I had two obstacles that I eventually overcame. Firstly, I expected the story to be focussed on the grand tale of the breaking of the Enigma machine, something like the fairly recent movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing. It turns out that the Enigma codes and Bletchley Park form the context for the story, which is actually a spy novel with its main focus on personal relationships. My mistake. Second thing that curbed my ea ...more
Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore
History (World War II), mathematics and cryptography, and the enigma machine―these themes that this story is set around is what attracted my attention when I saw the book as I hadn’t read anything by Robert Harris before. Our hero, the fictional Thomas Jerrico, is a student of Alan Turing himself (Turing makes a brief appearance in the book) and trained and recruited to Bletchley Park on the naval side of things as one of those working to break the Enigma. He achieves a major breakthrough with a ...more
Kay Rollison
Jun 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Masterful storytelling...

It's 1943, and the Allies rely on the shipping convoys from the US to keep their battered countries fed and munitioned. The tide has been flowing in the Allies favour since the German Enigma codes were broken at Bletchley Park in the South of England. But now the Germans have changed the U-boat code, threatening not only individual convoys but the entire defeat of the Allied forces. Tom Jericho, hailed as one of the most brilliant codebreakers, is on a break, suffering f
David Highton
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A mystery story built around the wartime code breaking operation at Bletchley with the brilliant Tom Jericho brought back from a nervous breakdown and seeking to find the girl he had fallen in love with and also breaking down the new Enigma code for U boats attacking North Atlantic convoys. Well written by Robert Harris, deeper and more complex than the film version, with a great twist at the end
May 09, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british, wartime
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
Sep 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Today everybody knows about Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, where the British tried to keep up with the cryptography of the German Reich by cracking the enigma machine that coded the German communication. The name of Alan Turing is well known and his role in breaking the German coded messages are well documented in various other books and movies. So the book is not about about Turing but those who continued in his footsteps and their efforts to keep abreast of the German war effort and then esp ...more
WOII thriller, set in the background of the decoding center in Bletchley Park. I enjoyed the book.
Mar 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was is everything Harris writes. I'd seen this movie years ago, and I loved the book. Great writing, characters, suspense. Excellent! ...more
Apr 03, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Set in 1943 when Turing’s famous Enigma machine has cracked most of the codes, the impenetrable cipher ‘Shark’ is still lurking in dark waters. As a top-secret team of cryptographers works on Shark in the background, a brilliant mathematician Tom Jericho begins to investigate his own mystery. When a beautiful lady called Claire goes missing and the cipher code changes, all sorts of things go through Tom’s head and he begins to wonder if there’s a traitor in their midst. Captivating, interesting ...more
Dec 24, 2019 rated it did not like it
I will start of by saying I read his first book eons ago called Fatherland and that was a good book. I read maybe three of his others books which were ok-this one was just plain bad -I can't sugar coat that any other way. For starters I really did not care for the main character or any of the supporting cast-that is a bad sign lol. Some of his other books moved at a slow pace sometimes but this one made a glacier move fast. There was no thrill in this book and the secondary story was also a hot ...more
A Man Called Ove
2.5/5 Probably the weakest of the 8 novels I have read by the author. The story of how the German cryptography codes were cracked.
The narration style is typical of Harris - leisurely paced, with some good set-pieces and important history is part of the revelation at the end. But, found this one a bit too long, and a bit obscure. The obscurity reminded me of le Carre.
Annette C
Oct 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Okay, I didn’t know anything about this.
I enjoy learning about history, how could I not have known?

This enigma code breaking computer is as powerful and important as fire, as the Iron Age, steam engines, steel, cotton gins, air planes, telephones, antibiotics, atomic weapons, vaccines, waterproof mascara and tampons... I mean come on, why wasn’t I taught about this in history class?

I devoured this book and then sought out the movie based on Alan Turing. (Which was also wonderful, thanks Benedi
Nov 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant. I can imagine Lily James (Rose from Downton Abbey) playing Claire. Well written. Enjoyed it immensely. 5 stars.
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ROBERT HARRIS is the author of nine best-selling novels: Fatherland, Enigma, Archangel, Pompeii, Imperium, The Ghost Writer, Conspirata, The Fear Index, and An Officer and a Spy. Several of his books have been adapted to film, most recently The Ghost Writer, directed by Roman Polanski. His work has been translated into thirty-seven languages. He lives in the village of Kintbury, England, with his ...more

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