Turing’s Last Test: The Fall of Man in Wilmslow

If you’re one of the people who was fascinated by the award-winning movie The Imitation Game, about the life of Alan Turing, the mathematical genius who was partly responsible for the invention of computers, you might be intrigued by a new book that looks at Alan Turing’s life and death from a slightly different angle: The Fall of Man in Wilmslow: The Death and Life of Alan Turing, by David Lagercrantz.

Lagercrantz is probably better known to American readers for his addition to the Millennium series last year, The Girl in the Spider’s Web, but here we get to see him unburdened by the characters and plots of another author and following his own bent.

The Fall of Man in Wilmslow takes place in the 1950’s in an England under the shadow of the Cold War.  England is reeling from some high level defections to the Soviet Union, and anti-homosexual fervor is at its height. Alan Turing is dead, his death presumed a suicide due to the humiliation of his arrest and conviction for homosexuality. The death of another homosexual pervert, in the thinking of the times, doesn’t really matter.

But for Leonard Correll, a young police officer involved in the case, something doesn’t quite feel right. Correll had a gift for mathematics himself in his youth, but wasn’t able to translate it into a university education or a career in math due to factors beyond his control. He starts digging into the background of this strange man, and bumps into layers and layers of security, before finally discovering one of the best-kept secrets of World War II, the Bletchley Park efforts to crack the Germans’ Enigma Code. He begins to wonder whether this was suicide after all.  But Turing isn’t the only one with secrets, and as Correll digs deeper, he finds some of his own, which lead to his being pursued as a potential threat to national security.

For insight into a particular period of English history, and another look at the life and death of Alan Turing and the tragedy of his death, try The Fall of Man in Wilmslow.

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