Book review: Fall of Man In Wilmslow, by David Lagercranz

lagercrantz-fall-of-man-in-wilmslowLagercranz, David. Fall of Man In Wilmslow. Knopf, 2016. HC. $26.95. ISBN 978-1101946695.

This historical novel uses as its jumping-off point the 1954 presumed suicide of Alan Turing, the legendary British mathematician and computer inventor who was also persecuted for his homosexuality during a deeply conservative era. The main character is Leonard Corell, a young detective constable who once studied mathematics himself. He leads the Turing “investigation,” though it is quickly presumed the man’s death is due to suicide. Corell has questions, however, and that uncertainty propels him into a wide-ranging personal and professional journey.

Along the way, Corell learns about Turing’s life during World War II, when he managed to break the Germans’ “Enigma” communications code, and secretly worked for the government at Bletchley Park. He also meets pivotal people from Turing’s past, and becomes more fully aware of the late genius’s idiosyncrasies and brilliance, leading Corell to explore his own secrets and philosophies.

This book is no beach read. It begins engrossingly, but, in my opinion, becomes somewhat muddled about halfway through with the introduction of characters from both Corell’s and Turing’s lives, people and relationships that soon became confusing for me to follow. In addition, readers may find themselves skimming large portions of the text, as these characters zoom off into philosophical and scientific flights of fancy, discussing concepts that Turing himself undoubtedly grasped in their entirety, but which may be overwhelming to us mere mortals. Forewarned is forearmed.

However, the book is well written, and the author explores his main character’s persona keenly and thoroughly. A reader who stays focused on Corell will likely glean much from the effort, and be moved by the novel’s “postscript” conclusion.

This book is recommended, with caveats, for LGBT mystery and historical fiction collections, especially where interest in Alan Turing still lingers after the 2015 Oscar-nominated film The Imitation Game.

Cathy Ritchie
Acquisitions/Selection Services
Dallas (TX) Public Library

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