[Blum] has…managed to write a book that is not an academic work (although it is informed by a careful reading of numerous academic volumes) but a gripping detective thriller…He paints fascinating portraits of the "reticent, inaccessible" Gardner and of the meticulous Lamphere, who stayed on track though constantly challenged by his superiors. Blum's book is especially valuable in rebutting the dwindling few who still believe the Rosenberg case was about the government seeking to curb the civil liberties of dissenters. Suppression of dissent, Blum demonstrates, was the furthest thing from the two men's minds…By focusing on Lamphere and Gardner and their pursuit of Soviet spies, Blum has managed to provide a fresh look at the familiar story of the Rosenbergs. Indeed, his book may be the last piece we need to understand the puzzle surrounding one of the most memorable espionage cases of the 20th century.
The New York Times bestselling author of Dark Invasion and The Last Goodnight once again illuminates the lives of little-known individuals who played a significant role in America’s history as he chronicles the incredible true story of a critical, recently declassified counterintelligence mission and two remarkable agents whose story has been called "the greatest secret of the Cold War."
In 1946, genius linguist and codebreaker Meredith Gardner discovered that the KGB was running an extensive network of strategically placed spies inside the United States, whose goal was to infiltrate American intelligence and steal the nation’s military and atomic secrets. Over the course of the next decade, he and young FBI supervisor Bob Lamphere worked together on Venona, a top-secret mission to uncover the Soviet agents and protect the Holy Grail of Cold War espionage—the atomic bomb.
Opposites in nearly every way, Lamphere and Gardner relentlessly followed a trail of clues that helped them identify and take down these Soviet agents one by one, including Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. But at the center of this spy ring, seemingly beyond the American agents’ grasp, was the mysterious master spy who pulled the strings of the KGB’s extensive campaign, dubbed Operation Enormoz by Russian Intelligence headquarters. Lamphere and Gardner began to suspect that a mole buried deep in the American intelligence community was feeding Moscow Center information on Venona. They raced to unmask the traitor and prevent the Soviets from fulfilling Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s threat: "We shall bury you!"
A breathtaking chapter of American history and a page-turning mystery that plays out against the tense, life-and-death gamesmanship of the Cold War, this twisting thriller begins at the end of World War II and leads all the way to the execution of the Rosenbergs—a result that haunted both Gardner and Lamphere to the end of their lives.
In this gripping exploration of Cold War spycraft, Blum (The Last Goodnight) lays out the complex chain of circumstances that led to the exposure of a major Soviet spy ring responsible for stealing America’s atomic secrets during and after WWII, and culminated with the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. As Blum follows the exploits of FBI agent Bob Lamphere and genius code breaker Meredith Gardner, he lays out the difficulties they faced in patiently unraveling the espionage network, one suspect at a time. To follow the trail to its source, they decrypted each stage of the code, compared it to a treasure trove of uncoded Soviet cables, and had to “re-create the KGB codebook” in order to match code names to actual people (“Kalibre” was Ethel Rosenberg’s brother, David Greenglass). Through extensive research and interviews, Blum brings a widespread cast of significant participants to life, from Lamphere and Gardner (from their awkward first meeting: “Meredith once again appeared to give the question considerable thought. But whether that was really the case... Bob could only guess. He found the man across from him inscrutable”) and their Soviet counterparts to the Rosenbergs and their many colleagues. Concise yet packed with details, this is a true page-turner, sure to appeal to those interested in the history of espionage or the Cold War. Photos. (Feb.)
The spy hunt set off by the Venona decrypts is one of the great stories of the Cold War and Howard Blum tells it here with the drama and page-turning pace of a classic thriller.
Blum has managed to provide a fresh look at the familiar story of the Rosenbergs. Indeed, his book may be the last piece we need to understand the puzzle surrounding one of the most memorable espionage cases of the 20th century.
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… Blum is a standout in the field of espionage history.
The New York Times best-selling, Edgar Award-winning Blum relies on recently declassified files to show how brilliant linguist/code-breaker Meredith Gardner learned that a huge network of KGB spies were set to infiltrate American intelligence. FBI supervisor Bob Lampshere then worked with Gardner on a top-secret mission code-named Venona to find them. With a 50,000-copy first printing.
"Both died without making any confessions": a finely detailed study of crime and punishment in the days of the Manhattan project.It was an unlikely pairing: a geeky linguist and codebreaker working for an early iteration of the National Security Agency just after World War II and an earnest FBI agent who teamed up to search out evidence of Soviet espionage inside the atomic bomb program. At the end of that trail lay the executions of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and the capture of Klaus Fuchs, but success in breaking up the spy ring and ferreting out the mole deep inside the organization was not without episodes of ineptitude and ball-dropping: "then, without either warning or explanation, two months after the Blue Problem had been launched, it was ended," writes veteran historian of spookdom Blum (The Last Goodnight: A World War II Story of Espionage, Adventure, and Betrayal, 2016, etc.), a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. Getting to that mole was one thing; doing so without tipping the Soviets off to the fact that their codes had been broken was quite another. The author's story, which grows to enfold the Venona program, isn't entirely new, but it reinforces several points: how thoroughly Soviet agents were able to penetrate the government and scientific circles and the undeniable guilt of those who were eventually brought to justice—and, to boot, the ordinariness of some of the key players ("when Spillane arrived punctually at two, Kalibre, along with his pregnant wife—the woman code-named Wasp—sat with him at the kitchen table"). Blum is especially good on the motivations that caused some Americans to take the Soviet side. One explained that he felt that the American government committed "gross negligence" in not sharing atomic secrets with its recent ally, while Julius Rosenberg's haughty arrogance may lose him any sympathy readers might have had before opening the book.Taut and well-crafted—of great interest to students of spydom and the early Cold War.
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