Review: The Cryptographer’s Dilemma, by Johnnie Alexander (w/giveaway)

Welcome to the Takeover Tour for The Cryptographer’s Dilemma by Johnnie Alexander, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!

book coverOverview

A Code Developer Uncovers a Japanese Spy Ring

Full of intrigue, adventure, and romance, this new series celebrates the unsung heroes—the heroines of WWII.

FBI cryptographer Eloise Marshall is grieving the death of her brother, who died during the attack on Pearl Harbor, when she is assigned to investigate a seemingly innocent letter about dolls. Agent Phillip Clayton is ready to enlist and head oversees when asked to work one more FBI job. A case of coded defense coordinates related to dolls should be easy, but not so when the Japanese Consulate gets involved, hearts get entangled, and Phillip goes missing. Can Eloise risk loving and losing again?


Disclaimer: Although I received a copy of this book from JustRead Publicity Tours and the publisher, the opinions below are my own.

If the plotline of The Cryptographer’s Dilemma sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone. It nagged at me, someone with a slight interest in World War Two cryptography, for the first couple of chapters. I knew I’d read about a spy ring involving dolls once before. It turns out, this is a novel based upon actual events. Velvalee Dickinson passed on vital information regarding United States naval vessels using the names and addresses of fellow doll enthusiasts and letters purportedly from them about their dolls. Authorities learned of the letters when they were Returned to Sender; in this case, the people whose identities she stole. I’ve not shared any spoilers, by the way. You can find this information anywhere, including on the FBI website!

The Heroines of WWII series, according to the back of the book, “celebrates unsung heroes – the women of WWII.” I’m guessing that Eloise Marshall is loosely inspired by a female cryptanalyst, Elizebeth Friedman, who broke the code Dickinson used. Sadly, there is more correct information about Dickinson – including her name, marriage status, and her connection to the Japanese – than there is about Friedman, who continues to be “unsung.”

Knowing that the ending could not be the same as the actual events, I chose to treat the novel as a complete work of fiction. Once I made that decision, I was able to sit back and enjoy it, wondering when and how Dickenson would be caught. The Cryptographer’s Dilemma is written in a third person viewpoint, alternating between Eloise and Phillip’s perspectives. An occasional angle of an unknown player is included, which heightens the tension. A seemingly unrelated side plot becomes entwined in the mission.

Lastly, this is a book that made me think. Phillip is described as having been involved with the take down of Operation Pastorius, which was a German plan for acts of sabotage in the United States. One reason the plot failed is that one of the saboteurs turned himself in and betrayed the other agents. In the novel, Phillip wrestles with the notion that he could’ve found himself in a comparable situation, committed to acts of sabotage in Japan or Nazi-occupied Germany. How far would he be willing to go for his country? While the turncoat undoubtably saved American lives, he was considered a traitor to Germany because of his actions. The answer isn’t clear cut, but it’s an interesting debate with the ongoing threat of terrorism by foreign actors. And, while the German turncoat was initially given the death sentence in the USA (it was commuted to life imprisonment), Dickinson was only given a minor sentence of ten years for betraying her own country. She was released from prison in 1951. That’s, perhaps, my biggest takeaway from this novel.



Product Information

Publisher: Barbour Publishing

Publication Date: 01 August 2021

Book Information

author headshotAuthor Information

Johnnie Alexander is a wannabe vagabond with a heart for making memories. Whether at home in Oklahoma or on the road, she creates characters you want to meet and imagines stories you won’t forget. She writes in multiple genres ~ historical, contemporary romance, cozy mysteries, and more. Sharing her life are Griff, her happy-go-lucky collie, and Rugby, her raccoon-treeing papillon.

Johnnie Alexander’s Website

Tour Giveaway

One winner will receive a print copy of The Cryptographer’s Dilemma and a $15 Amazon gift card!


Be sure to check out each stop on the tour for more chances to win. Full tour schedule linked below. Giveaway began at midnight August 9, 2021 and lasts through 11:59 PM EST on August 16, 2021. Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.


Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!



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