The Xanthe Schneider Enigma Files

Written by David Boyle
Review by Mary Fisk

In this twisty World War 2 espionage thriller, we follow the missions of Xanthe Schneider, a young American crossword champion from Cincinnati, who happens to be studying in England at the outbreak of war. She is drawn into the Bletchley Circle of codebreakers and British naval intelligence by none other than Commander Ian Fleming himself, and the ambiguous figure of Ralph Lancing-Price, a diplomat who may be playing his own risky game.

The fact that Xanthe falls pregnant early in the narrative, and takes on her latter assignments with the baby left behind in England, is another twist to the narrative as she struggles to reconcile maternal longing with the sense that she must make the future safe for her child. Other tropes are more familiar – the camaraderie of the Bletchley Circle, midnight landings in occupied Europe, sinister Gestapo men, and perilous flights from the enemy.

This is a tense page-turner, capturing the knife-edge balance of excitement, tension and terror in Xanthe’s three missions to Berlin in 1940, to occupied Greece and then neutral

Switzerland, which all put her life at risk as she works to assist the Bletchley code-breakers.

Occasional typographical errors have slipped through the editorial process.

The ending is ambivalent and inconclusive (but I suppose things were in wartime). The spirited Xanthe Schneider is, however, a heroine I would like to see more of, and perhaps the way has purposefully been left open for further assignments.