An engaging resurrection of a significant player in the world of cryptology.

THE WOMAN WHO SMASHED CODES

A TRUE STORY OF LOVE, SPIES, AND THE UNLIKELY HEROINE WHO OUTWITTED AMERICA'S ENEMIES

The wife of the groundbreaking cryptoanalyst William Friedman finally gets her due as equal partner in their pioneering codebreaking work over 30 years.

While her husband was long treated by the National Security Agency as the “founder of the science of modern American cryptology,” it was the partnership with his wife, Elizebeth, that drove the two to brilliant heights in the field. Journalist Fagone (Ingenious: A True Story of Invention, Automotive Daring, and the Race to Revive America, 2013, etc.) does a bang-up research effort in unearthing the true story of this humble Midwestern codebreaker, who often gave her husband the credit while her own work (and much of his) had to remain in secrecy because of concerns of national security. However, the sexism of the time would also play a role in how her work was undervalued and underreported; as the author notes, “when powerful men started to tell the story [e.g., FBI director J. Edgar Hoover], they left her out of it.” A remarkable meeting of the minds occurred when Elizebeth, a recent college graduate, was introduced to William, a mild-mannered geneticist, at the wealthy Chicago businessman George Fabyan’s fabulous Riverbank “laboratory” in Geneva, Illinois, in 1916. Elizebeth had been hired to figure out the cipher in Shakespeare’s First Folio that was supposed to reveal its author as Francis Bacon, and while she lost faith in the project, she found she had a knack for code-breaking. With the war escalating, she and William led the “Riverbank Department of Ciphers,” fed by a stream of encrypted messages from Washington, D.C. Over time, they developed into a fine-tuned team, and Fagone explains without arduous technicality how the process worked—then pen and paper, without machines. Between the wars, the two wrote books, and Elizebeth helped crack messages from rumrunners for the Coast Guard. World War II brought the challenges of breaking Magic and Enigma, among other astounding achievements across the globe.

An engaging resurrection of a significant player in the world of cryptology.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-243048-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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