In Salem’s Cipher by Jess Lourey, Salem and Bel have been friends since childhood. Bel is now a police officer in Chicago, while Salem is a genius cryptanalyst who has been sought after by the world’s top security agencies since she made a quantum computing breakthrough in college. She’s also been an agoraphobe, unable to leave the safety of her comfort zones of work and home since the death of her father.
The women are brought back together when their mothers mysteriously disappear and another woman is found murdered close to where they were last seen.
They follow the clues and codes, which lead them to messages encrypted by Emily Dickinson and codes tucked inside the partially unbroken Beale Cipher a hundred years earlier.
Along the way they find out their mothers were part of a secret organization of women known as The Underground, battling a ruthless group of men called The Heritage that has operated since being formed by President Andrew Jackson.
Meanwhile they have both assassins and the FBI on their tail, and it appears the Heritage’s plans include killing a female presidential candidate. A centuries old battle of the sexes rests upon Salem and Bel solving the final clues before that happens.
I enjoyed Salem’s Cipher from the beginning. The story has tones of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, but only in the way that the historical information used in the story is well-researched and presented as plausible plot points.
The characters were well-written – except I couldn’t wrap my head around the assassin that could mold his face – and the pacing was fast and even. A lot happens but it will keep your attention.
The ending of the book nicely sets up a sequel, and based on this first book, I’m looking forward to the story continuing.
I would give Salem’s Cipher by Jess Lourey 4 1/2 stars out of 5.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review purposes via NetGalley. As always, my opinions are my own. There are also affiliate links used in this review which help pay for this site at no additional cost to you.
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