Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Codes and Ciphers

Codes and ciphers have featured in detective fiction since the days of Edgar Allan Poe, and I’m as fascinated by them as most people. Hence, of course, The Cipher Garden, which was the second Lake District Mystery. I just about resisted the temptation to call it The Da Vinci Code Garden…and certainly, the idea of having a sort of cipher set within a garden appealed greatly to me. It sprang from a visit years ago to Mellor’s Garden, near Macclesfield, a truly memorable place.

Recently I received yet another novel which follows in the wake of Dan Brown, The Alexandra Cipher, by Will Adams, published by Harper. It features an ‘outcast Egyptologist’ called Daniel Knox. I’m hoping that any ciphers in the story give the reader a fair chance to puzzle them out. Not so long ago, I read Policeman’s Evidence, an obscure Golden Age detective story by Rupert Penny, a writer whom generally I admire Alas, the cipher that Penny included was so complex that it defeated me (not difficult) and demanded an extensive explanation at the end of the book (not desirable.) Penny, whose real name was Basil Thornett, worked at Bletchley during the Second World War, probably as a cryptographer. His books are always ingenious, although this particular novel was a bit too clever for its own good, and thus a bit dull. It has recently been reprinted by Ramble House, and I’m hoping that they soon reprint some of the other, superior Penny mysteries.

No comments: