A lovely narrative history history book about Elizebeth Smith Friedman, a woman with deep influences in cryptography, connections to the formation of the FBI, CIA, and NSA, and the transformation of codebreaking into a science.
The balance between personal detail, technical insights, and history is perfect. Fagone’s research is so exhaustive that the characters really breathe, and the historical context weaves in and out, making it feel real and connected to the history. It’s a great gateway to ‘vintage’ cryptography, too, and has me itching to implement an Enigma machine emulator.
Full disclosure: I know the author and his wife, and he cooked an excellent veggie burger for me once. It was delicious and may have affected this review.