Robert Harris was born in 1957, in Nottingham, England, and educated at Cambridge University. He graduated with an honors degree in English and joined the BBC, working as a researcher and director before becoming the BBC's youngest reporter on "Newsnight" in 1982. In 1987, he left television to become political editor of The Observer before joining the Sunday Times as a weekly columnist in 1989. He has since made several films for British television.
Harris is the author of five nonfiction books, three of which have been published in the United States: A Higher Form of Killing (1982), a history of chemical and biological warfare; Gotcha! (1983), a study of how the media covered the Falklands War; and Selling Hitler (1986), the story of the forged Hitler diaries scandal, which was made into a television miniseries. His first novel, Fatherland (1992), was the most successful first novel by a Bri tish author in the past twenty years and was published in 18 countries. He lives near Hungerford, Berkshire with his wife and two children.
Enigma was the name for an enciphering machine developed in the 1920s and later used by the Nazi military. If numbers and ciphers puzzle you, do not despair. Harris (Fatherland, LJ 4/1/92) effectively evokes the damp bleakness, the deprivation, and the anxiety of war-torn 1940s England. The hero of his novel, Tom, is a delicate, slightly effete young man but a mathematical genius. As the story opens, Tom has had a mental and physical breakdown from too many hours working at code breaking and not enough eating and sleeping. He is recuperating at Cambridge when his supervisor arrives to lure him back to the same punishing grind. The Enigma Codes have changed, and the good guys cannot find the deciphering key in time to save an extra-large convoy coming from America. There is love, a spy in their midst, and a few other red herrings to round out the mix. Definitely recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/95.]‘Dawn L. Anderson, North Richland Hills P.L., Tex.
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.)
YA‘In 1943, a group of Britain's finest mathematicians and cryptologists gathered secretly in pastoral Bletchley Park with the sole aim of decoding the incomprehensible German cipher, Enigma. Its use had confounded both British and American intelligence, because new, highly classified mechanical improvements within the cipher machine made it superior to any Allied instruments. Enter Tom Jericho, master cryptologist and code-breaker, recently recalled from a nervous breakdown and fractured romantic relationship, to troubleshoot British efforts to crack the code. In this tightly crafted story based on actual events, Harris succeeds in engaging readers by realistically portraying the environment of intrigue existing in wartime England. Jericho is a meek and sympathetic anti-hero, stinging from an unrequited relationship, still hopeful of reconciliation, who reluctantly realizes the possibility of his lover's betrayal of classified information. This novel's singular strength is Harris's ability to take a technologically complex concept and make it lucid and riveting reading. The plot moves apace, and the ending has an unexpected twist. World War II buffs will enjoy this challenging and satisfying tale.‘Carol Beall, Immanuel Christian School, Springfield, VA