April 05, 2014

Enigma (Camp X series, Book 6)

by Eric Walters
Puffin Canada
256 pp.
Ages 9+
November, 2013

If you haven't shared in the Eric Walters' Camp X experience, then hold onto your fedora, homburg or baker boy's cap.  The series that began with brothers Jack and George discovering  a Canadian spy training camp, Camp X, near their summer residence in 1942 Whitby, Ontario has moved through four additional books and World War II continues to wreak havoc across the world and extend its reach.

George Braun, now 12, and his brother Jack, 15, are accompanying their parents by ship to England as part of a convoy of cargo ships, destroyers, corvettes and such when one of the ships is torpedoed by a U-boat in the Atlantic.  Before the U-boat is sunk, the Marines retrieve a device that has the MPs requesting that the boys' mother, Betty, and the rest of the family transfer to the destroyer Valiant for speedier delivery to England.  The device is an Enigma machine, the encrypting system the Germans were using, and "the key to winning the war" (pg. 55) according to Bill Stephenson, who leads the British security forces.

The family is taken to Bletchley Park, the headquarters of British encryption operations, where Mrs. Braun is asked to work with the genius, Professor Alan, and where Captain Braun is to assess, test and revamp security.  The boys who have already proved themselves in earlier adventures to be keen observers are invited to deliver messages and do odd jobs while helping to determine whether any spies or Nazi sympathizers may have already infiltrated Bletchley.  George and Jack meet up again with Ray, the ex-convict and master of disguise who they met in Trouble in Paradise and who now works for the government out of Bletchley Park.

But, everything seems to go amiss when the boys accompany Ray to London by train.  Jack goes along so that he can meet up and spend some alone time with Louise, the British princess they'd all originally been coming to England to visit.  George is to join Ray on the hunt for potential code-breakers.  When Ray is spotted by some old criminal colleagues, they are all taken at gunpoint and held until Ray gets into Naval Intelligence (where he now has access) and sneaks out the plans for which the Nazis are willing to pay Bruno and his fellow thugs loads of money. 

If this sounds like an edge-of-your-seat adventure, in which secrets must be kept and you don't know whom to trust, then you've got a good idea of how Enigma plays out.  George and Jack are typical brothers, always hassling each other, even more so now that Jack is in the throes of teen love.  Eric Walters does not disappoint in carrying the reader effortlessly through this newest Camp X adventure, making the boys' exploits seem almost realistic and probably the envy of every young reader who believe espionage to be a possible career option. (Is it?) By including the factual details of Enigma and Bletchley Park, as well as real persons like Ian Fleming, Bill Stephenson and Alan Turing, Eric Walters creates such authenticity in Enigma that some readers will wonder if the adventures are "just" stories or historical accounts of little-known events from World War II.  And that is an amazing accomplishment for any author.

If Enigma seems like a great read for a young person in your life, especially a boy who enjoys historical fiction suffused with spies, adventure and war, check out the whole Camp X series which includes six books to date:
  1. Camp X
  2. Camp 30
  3. Fool's Gold
  4. Shell Shocked
  5. Trouble in Paradise
  6. Enigma
With the publication of Enigma, Penguin has redesigned the covers of all books in the series.
Be assured, though, that regardless of the cover, the same great stories and writing will be found within.

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