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The Cryptographer’s Dilemma

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Member Reviews

Fascinating story filled with history, intrigue, mystery, suspense and romance. Great story. I received a complimentary copy of the book. No review was required.
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After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Eloise works as a cryptologist for the Navy, unscrambling codes and decoding encrypted messages. One day, Eloise is assigned to partner with a grumpy FBI agent named Phillip. Their mission? Unravel a series of doll-related letters that could contain codes for Navy intel that could be devastating in the wrong hands.

I wanted to like this book so much! On the surface, it has everything I would enjoy - a woman pushed out of her comfort zone, a grumpy FBI agent, coded letters, and travel. Unfortunately, this book fell short for me. The first few chapters seemed slow. In fact, the first half of the book was very slow paced, and it was only in the last quarter of the book where all the action seemed to happen. The writing was clunky and awkward at times, and it felt like the author was only “telling,” not “showing.”

I know the romance between Eloise and Phillip was supposed to be a slower burn, but it did not feel organic or realistic. At first, Eloise thinks he’s grumpy and abrasive. Suddenly, she finds him handsome and wants to reach out and touch him. Phillip clearly finds Eloise attractive, but keeps reminding himself that she is his “sister,” in an effort to resist acting on his attraction.

Phillip, upset that he is currently not serving in active duty, begrudgingly goes along with the mission, mostly because it is his boss is his Uncle Richard. What really frustrated me about Phillip was that he failed to see the importance of work simply because it was not active duty.

The thoughts that Eloise and Phillip had seemed to go on and on, and I thought that there could have been other ways for the author to show us what was going on inside their heads. The storyline about Eloise and her father eventually tied into the bigger storyline, but it felt very disjointed and unrelated when it was introduced.

The one redeeming part of this book was the storyline of The Doll Lady, and how she ended up selling Naval intelligence. She had an interesting story that could have been fleshed out more to present more tension between “good” vs “evil.” Especially considering that one of the themes of the story is about patriotism, and how far one is willing to go to fight for their own country, Velvalee was an interesting character. The intersection of her and Lorraine could have been expanded on as well - it felt like they had zero interaction, and then all of a sudden, that plot line got tied up before it barely got started.

My last gripe with this book is my own fault - I didn’t realize it was published by a Christian focused publisher, so I was not expecting the multiple references to god and “god’s plan” to be such a prominent part of the story.

Overall, the story had solid bones, but could have done with more with the character development, as well as building out all the various storylines that the author introduced.

I was provided a free electronic copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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This is the second story that I have read from this author.  I love the strong female character and her courage in taking an FBI job. She's a code reader and works to figure out a code that leads to excitement and suspense. And perhaps a little romance!

I really enjoyed the author's writing style and how the book kept me turning pages.  I really enjoy a good WWII story!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and NetGalley.  All thoughts are my own.
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Eloise Marshall has a head for numbers, so when the navy recruits her as a cryptographer, she shines in her new role. So much so that the FBI enlists her to help with two potentially coded messages that appear to be innocuous letters about doll collecting. Her reluctant partner is Phillip Clayton, who was recently rejected by the Air Force due to being color blind. As the pair travel across the country trying to find the identity of a potential traitor, can they keep their relationship professional for the sake of their country?

I liked this story a lot while I was reading it, even though a lot of it is pretty unlikely. Then Eloise starts making some pretty reckless decisions for reasons that weren’t too bright, always either to avoid being left behind when she could see her part in the investigation being over or simply because she didn’t trust the FBI to help Phillip. These things aren’t necessarily against her character, but then again, her character is a bit contradictory in itself. On the one hand, she proves herself to be a risk taker (and to have quite a bit of gall in an early interaction between Phillip and his uncle, which I really liked), but at the same time quickly regrets leaving her world of numbers to enter into one of danger. This is not meant to be a complaint about the book, though, as it never left me feeling like it was bad characterization; it shows that she has some depth to her, really. But she still made me smack my head a few times.

As for Phillip…well, he’s a bit contradictory too. He’s shaken up by his part as an FBI agent in some German saboteurs being executed, while counting the minutes until he can join a military branch that won’t mind his color-blindedness, so he can go overseas and essentially execute people personally. However, even with him, I can imagine that he just hasn’t thought of it that way, because he’s too busy feeling guilty that he hasn’t joined his fellow countrymen in the fight, especially when so many people who see a healthy young man not in uniform treat him like a coward. I would fully expect the weight of what he’s joined up to do to not hit him full force until he gets over there.

Overall, the story moved at a good pace. Don’t expect much of a mystery, though, in regards to them finding the identity of the traitor. I would call it pretty light on the suspense, too. The romance isn’t too in-your-face, which I was glad for, though for some, it may be too subtle. And there was one whole element, a sort of side-villain, that wasn’t fleshed out at all and felt incredibly contrived as a way to add some danger for the main characters near the end. These are a few small gripes, though, in an overall good story, which I would recommend for fans of historical Christian romance, especially in the WWII era.
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Great start to a new series that Barbour is putting out. I didn’t realize it was based on a true story until the end, I love that!

This book had a lot to hold your interest. There was a sub plot and at first I was like why is this part of the story, it seemed to take it off track but Johnnie tied it in beautifully.

I enjoyed this cast of characters very much, they all played a vital role and were well developed.


A copy of this book was given to me through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
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"The Cryptographer’s Dilemma" is a Christian romance set in 1942 in America. There was a mystery, but more scenes focused on Eloise or Philip thinking about their personal troubles than on solving who the traitor was. The author often had someone think about what happened rather than show events, especially in the first half of the story. These were significant events, like apparently Eloise's and Philip's opinion of each other changed from "unpleasant person" to admiration during a briefly summarized train ride. It was a sudden change from mildly negative feelings to fighting romantic attraction, and I'm not really sure why they were attracted. For that matter, I never understood why an invaluable cryptographer was quickly trained as an FBI agent and sent to interview people when other people (with more experience) could have done that job.

Eloise's past was a secret for half of the story. There's a scene where she saw a newspaper photograph and got extremely upset for pages, and we have absolutely no idea why. It's hard to empathize when I have no idea why she's upset. Many chapters passed with no more information about why she's upset or what was in the picture. At least with Philip, we know about the event that had him upset. I didn't really understand him, though. He felt guilty that a criminal (a man made in the image of God) was facing the death sentence because of his testimony. However, he's determined to go to the war front, and it never occurred to him that he might feel guilty about personally killing the enemy.

The mystery was basically talking to a few doll collectors in an attempt to understand who could have written the coded messages. It didn't take her long to solve the code. Scenes from the traitor's point of view explained her motives and actions, so it's not a puzzle for the reader to solve. At the end, Eloise threw away common sense (though not her gun) when she charged in before the FBI to save her beloved stranger...er, Phillip. And, of course, they paused in the middle of a time sensitive, danger-filled moment to have their first kiss. So it had a lot of my pet peeves. There was no sex or bad language.
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I enjoyed this read, and loved the author's notes at the end, this story is based on facts!

While our troops were fighting for our freedom during WWII, some of those at home were also at war. This book focus on the FBI, and we have a young woman added to the ranks to help find "Doll Woman"! Unusual at the time, but Eloise Marshall adds a lot to this story, we end up traveling from coast to coast, and meeting some interesting people who have been put in the middle of this case. There is also some danger, and then throw in a little sweet romance, and this one became a page turner!

I received this book through Net Galley and the Publisher Barbour, and was not required to give a positive review
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Great new historical fiction based on an actual FBI investigation of the “Doll Woman” who was passing information about American ships to Japan following Pearl Harbor.  Johnnie Alexander crafted  a story with a little romance, oplenty of intrigue, and lots of interesting history woven in. Stories of the ordinary women who learned to crack code readily capture my interest. They truly were heroines in the war effort. I loved the 
interaction between main characters Phillip and Eloise. The story moved along quickly, was easy to read and engaging. 
I look forward to more books in this series. 

Thanks to Barbour and Net Galley for the chance to read and review.
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This is a book you don't want to miss!! It's full of excitement and will keep you turning the pages to see what happens next. This is a *Must Read* book for all fans of Historical Fiction! I loved it!
Thank you Barbour Publishing via NetGalley for the complimentary copy of this book. All opinions expressed are my own.
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Johnnie Alexander’s newest novel, the Cryptographer’s Dilemma, was a delight to read.  Set during WWII, the story features Eloise and Phillip, two FBI agents intent on tracking down a potential traitor.  With perfectly timed tension, the story unfolds as our characters unite not only over this mystery, but also over personal heartaches.  

Alexander’s intrigue and romance held my attention as I rooted alongside our hero and heroine.   As a lover of historical fiction, this story captured my attention quickly and held my imagination every step of the way.   And I especially loved that it is based on a true story!

I received this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.
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If you enjoy a vintage story with an FBI/police procedural feel and a gentle romance, you'll enjoy this August release by Johnnie Alexander. The novel introduces an entire new series that celebrates heroines of WWII.

In The Crypographer’s Dilemma, Eloise Marshal, the grieving heroine, is an unassuming code developer, content behind her desk, who is pulled into the FBI, trained, and assigned to the task of decoding encrypted messages that may uncover saboteurs in the USA. She can’t do this inside her comfort zone but is partnered with Agent Phillip Clayton whom she first met in the home of his uncle. She considers Phillip arrogant and uncooperative. Of course, he’s dealing with his own issues that have nothing to do with her. Their relationship takes a turn, but so does the danger as they follow a trail across the country together. I think the story especially shines when the two MCs share little quips back and forth and we see them drawn out of themselves as they are pulled closer together.

The author must have done a ton of research to bring readers this aspect of the war—the code developers and those assigned to protect the country from infiltrators bent on doing us harm. I learned about actual incidents I’d not heard of before. I recommend this engaging read, a WWII novel that is not too heavy, not too light, but just right. 

I appreciate Netgalley for an advanced copy of the book. All opinions are my own.
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I hoped for more history in this historical fiction novel but instead got mostly fiction, and more romance than I’d anticipated. I thought that some of the fictional aspects of the plot were unbelievable and the romance between the 2 main characters felt forced and cheesy. I did enjoy learning of the doll woman and the short chapters help it or along quicker.

I was given a copy by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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An intriguing WWII story from Johnnie Alexander!  The Cryptographer’s Dilemma offers a glimpse into the world of FBI investigation against the backdrop of the early days of American involvement in WWII.  While I found some parts to be repetitive and the ending a bit rushed, I truly enjoyed this story and Alexander’s writing.  I really liked the characters, so I wish there had been a short epilogue to really wrap up their story.  Fans of WWII suspense and romance won’t want to miss this first installment in Barbour’s Heroines of WWII series.  4/5 stars

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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The Cryptographer's Dilemma is a World War 2 story set here in the United States.  This book is based on true events about a doll collector who helped the Japanese gain Intel about War ships.  This was a very enjoyable story that followed an FBI agent and a young woman who decodes messages for the navy. There is adventure,  mystery and romance. I highly recommend this book to any historical fiction readers.
*I was given a copy of this book by the publisher.  This is my honest opinion.
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I couldn’t put this book down!  Elise Marshall is a cryptographer during WW II. Philip Clayton wants to enlist but he is colorblind.  The two are forced together to decipher strange messages that can put the United States in danger.  I loved this book because it was about spies in the US.  This was based on a true story.  
If you love historical fiction, this book is for you.  This was the first book I read by Johnnie Alexander but it won’t be my last!
I want to thank Barbour Fiction and Netgallery for the chance to review this book.  All options are my own.
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I really enjoyed this book! The plot was interesting and kept me turning the pages to see how things would end! The characters were likable and I enjoyed their teamwork as they worked to uncover the traitor. I think this is a great start to this new series!
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The Cryptographer’s Dilemma by Johnnie Alexander is another great story based on a true crime. The time frame is 1942 after the US has been drawn into World War ll by the attack on Pearl Harbor. FBI agent Phillip Clayton longs to join the fighting but his supervisor and uncle, Richard Whitmer, convinces him there is work for him to do at home and promises he can go overseas after the next assignment. Eloise was a math teacher until she was convinced to become a cryptographer for the Navy and is very good at breaking codes. Richard brings the two of them together to go undercover as brother and sister to find Velvalee Dickinson, known as the Doll Lady who may be passing secrets to the Japanese. Will they be able to stay in the shadows as they travel from coast to coast to untangle the mystery?
I found this one fascinating. I had read about the code breakers before but being in the form of a novel this really brings the story to life. I enjoy the interactions within the story line between real and fictional characters. Very well written and the reader is engaged in the excitement from page one to a satisfying ending. I give this book a solid 5 of 5 stars.
I received an advance copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.
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Based on a true story during WWII, the FBI race across the United States to find a traitor. Velvalee, an avid so collector/seller used letters with embedded codes to send messages to Japanese leaders. This novel was very interesting, filled with details of how an cryptography decodes messages. I appreciated the author's notes about this event. Predictable but enjoyable.
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Johnnie Alexander wrote The Cryptographer’s Dilemma partially based on actual people.  This book was a captivating tale taking place in 1942.
	Phillip Clayton is an FBI agent who had just recently captured some German spies and was awaiting their trial.  Phillip was disappointed that he could not be serving on the foreign front but his color blindness was a hindrance.  His uncle, Richard Whitmer, was also with the FBI and his superior.  He had another assignment for Phillip and this one needed the help of someone else.  They needed the help of someone who could decipher some suspicious letters that had been confiscated by the postal inspectors.  
	Eloise Marshall is a cryptographer.  In fact, when we first meet her, she is trying to solve a puzzling code and we glimpse her method of doing so.  I was hooked on wanting to read more.  She is a delightful gal with her own story to tell and her involvement with the FBI is totally believable.  
	The way the author weaved this tale was totally page turning worthy with all the little twists and turns.  I wholeheartedly recommend this book.  	
	I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.  #TheCryptographersDilemma #HeroinesOfWWII #JohnnieAlexander
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This is the first in a wartime series featuring unsung heroines. The Cryptographer’s Dilemma is set entirely in the USA with the majority set in Portland or Washington and highlights the FBI’s investigation of WW2s number one woman spy, The Doll Woman, Velvalee Dickinson. 

Velvalee was a respected member of the national doll-collecting community in 1940s USA, but it was her secret life as a spy for the Japanese that caught the FBIs attention. She wrote letters using a jargon code that provided information about US ships damaged at Pearl Harbour and, in exchange, received money from the Japanese government. 

Fictional Elosie Marshall, a codebreaker for the navy, is recruited by the FBI to work on the Doll Case. Phillip Clayton, a fictional FBI agent, poses as her brother and they travel across the States investigating the identity of Doll Woman. 

There’s a little of everything in this interesting, quick, and easy read; mystery, romance, family issues, and religious inspiration. Had the book been a little longer, the author could have fleshed out the characters a little more resulting in better reader connection and better plot flow. Some things came out of left field and caused me to do plenty of re-reading. Had more time been spent on their backstory, I would not have wondered why seemingly random events had popped up where and when they did. Regardless, I learned so much about steganography and basic FBI training in addition to understanding a little more about the first American woman to face the death penalty for her wartime betrayal. 

“The one thing worse than German saboteurs on American soil was an American traitor. If one of Uncle Sam’s own was betraying the country, the Bureau needed to find the who, what, and why as quickly and quietly as possible.”

“Sometimes I wish God would write a message in the sky so I could understand…so I could know why.”

“You gave him something he didn’t deserve. I think the preachers call that grace.”

This slow-burning Christian historical fiction will be published August 1, 2021.

I received this advance copy from Johnnie Alexander, Barbour Publishing, and NetGalley and was under no obligation to provide a review.
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