Starred Booklist Review for In the Enemy’s House

Starred Booklist Review

*In the Enemy’s House.
Blum, Howard (Author)

Feb 2018. 352 p. Harper, hardcover, $29.99. (9780062458247). 341.4.

Edgar-winning Blum, a former New York Times reporter, unites journalistic detail with propulsive storytelling. Blum’s focus is on Russia’s efforts to steal atomic secrets from the U.S. during WWII by infiltrating American intelligence. These efforts were aided and shielded by an elaborate and unbreakable code, much trickier than those of the Germans or Japanese. Blum’s story is about how two Americans (the first, Meredith Gardner, an accomplished linguist and codebreaker; the second, Bob Lamphere, a somewhat reluctant FBI special agent) worked together to discover the identities of Russian spies, crack the Russian code, and keep the Russians from getting the atom bomb, at least for a while. Blum presents both a historical and a character-driven study here; perhaps even more interesting than the accounts of the spy-breaking moves and countermoves is the way that Blum shows the personalities of both Gardner and Lamphere, with the narrative arc leading to their shared sense of guilt over the fates of convicted—and executed—spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. There’s a lot of excitement throughout, as Blum shows how a piece of paper left on a desk, an overheard conversation, and a New York Times article (read by a Russian spy) contributed to hair-raising outcomes. Blum is a standout in the field of espionage history.

—Connie Fletcher