Title:                      Cynthia

Author:                  H. Montgomery Hyde

Hyde, H. Montgomery (1965). Cynthia. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

LCCN:    65023977

D810.S8 B73



  • Published 1966 as Cynthia: The Spy Who Changed the Course of the War [London: Hamish Hamilton]

Date Updated:  September 13, 2016

Reviewed by George C. Constantinides[1]

When he wrote of the British agent Cynthia, an American, in Room 3603[2], Hyde did not identify her. He did so in this book. The grandiloquent subtitle of the British edition obviously claims too much for her accomplishments. Amy Thorpe, the agent, did not live to see the debate about this book and the legal problems it caused. Barton Whaley called it a sensationalized and scantily researched biography. He pointed out, as did David Kahn, that Hyde was wrong in insisting that the naval victory at Matapan was due to the acquisition of an Italian cipher by Cynthia. The Italian naval attaché in Washington had not received the Italian cipher used at this battle. This fact was brought out in a suit against Hyde by heirs of the Italian from whom Cynthia allegedly acquired the cipher. According to Ronald Lewin, these legal actions have raised doubts about her achievements as a spy. Hyde acknowledges that most of the material for this biography was supplied by Amy Thorpe or members of her family or friends, although he also made use of his recollections of her and his notes. The verdict on Thorpe and her work for British Security Coordination is still out, and further research is needed to provide support for William Stephenson’s tribute to her (according to Hyde) that Cynthia was “the war’s greatest unsung heroine.”

Reviewed by Paul W. Blackstock and Frank L. Schaf[3]

A well-told biography of Minneapolis-born Amy Elizabeth Thorpe (1910-63) who was an American agent of Allied intelligence working for British Secret Intelligence Service. One feat credited to “Cynthia” was obtaining the naval code of the Vichy French. The author was a member of the British intelligence organization in New York—British Security Coordination (BSC).

[1] Constantinides, George C. (1983). Intelligence and Espionage: An Analytical Bibliography. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, p. 249

[2] Hyde, H. Montgomery (1962). Room 3603: The Incredible True Story of Secret Intelligence Operations During World War II. Guilford, DE: The Lyons Press (republished 2002)

[3] Blackstock, Paul W. (1978) and Frank L. Schaf, Jr. Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage, And Covert Operations: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale Research Co., p. 146


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2 Responses to Cynthia

  1. Pingback: Room 3603 | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

  2. Pingback: A Man Called Intrepid | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

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