Unravelling the threads
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Top Secret: For your eyes onlyDear Jodie, How did the trainees get on? I assume they cracked the ciphers, but perhaps they struggled with what the letter told them. You need to know quite a bit about the US to understand what was going on. My own reading is that the owner of the library where the body was found was planning on mounting a campaign to get elected as governor of the state but was worried that any scandal might undermine his chances. He seems to have been on good terms with the local Chief of Police, and since that is also an elected position, they will have both understood what was at stake. I dug around and found that the chief, Tom Harper, had a reputation as an honest man, but his judgement might have been influenced by his friendship with Rogers, and the fact that the police were reluctant to investigate might have had more to do with manpower shortages than any undue influence. I checked their archives and there is some evidence that Harper carried out quiet enquiries of his own, perhaps after he received the letter from Rogers. I wondered if that was due diligence, but it might also be because he received a strange letter from a local doctor who seemed to have been assisting the Librarian, Maisie Styles, with her own investigation into the case. I am still unsure why she was involved. She worked in Rogers’ household and was the one who found the body, but it does seem a little above her pay grade to be launching an investigation into the circumstances of the death. The current owner of the house remembers her grandfather talking about Miss Maisie in fond tones. She worked here until she was no longer able to do so and was a diligent Librarian who built the collection from good to great. (It is still excellent, and I have not had time to start a crossword OR a sudoku since I discovered it!) Perhaps she was upset that someone had broken the sanctity of her domain and just wanted to understand why. She must have been worried about the security of the collection and it would have been frustrating that the police did not appear very interested. She seems to have asked the local doctor Maurice White to investigate the volume found in the deceased’s grasp; given his findings, that was a good call. I am not sure what his letter tells us, but once you have broken the encryption on it perhaps you can let me know what you think. I hope you didn’t mind me encrypting this note. I thought you and the trainees might enjoy breaking it. It is good practice for the letter from Dr Maurice White MD! All the best, Harry
Doctoring the evidence?
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Top Secret: For your eyes onlyDearest Miss Styles, I must admit that I was unconvinced by your claim that we would find anything of note in the volume that you sent me. You are right that it has some value as a special edition of Poe’s work, but I could not see anything remarkable about it that might explain the presence or the death of the young man you found in the library. It is a fine specimen, and it was with some reluctance that I attacked the binding as I did not expect to find anything remarkable therein. You can imagine my surprise then to discover the attached note, clearly written in a cipher, and carefully concealed between the leather and the end boards. Even then I assumed this to be a publisher’s trick to promote the edition given the prominence of encryption in the tale, but consulting with my friends in the book trade, none of them had heard of such a conceit, and I could not find any record of an advertising campaign referring to such a curiosity. At this point I felt I should at least attempt to decipher the message and quickly discovered that the author had used the very mild convention of a shift cipher, clearly intended to be broken. The first line read “Recent events have made it clearer than ever to me that I am in mortal danger”, and the rest contained much to alarm me, especially the rather clumsy reverse acrostic which read MURDER (though for the longest time I assumed it to read RED RUM which caused me much confusion). Whether or not this concealed message points to the unfortunate death of your interloper is not apparent to me, but I think you are right that its presence should be sufficient to encourage the police to reopen the case. I will forward a copy of this letter, together with my findings, to my friend Tom Harper. As Chief of Police, he should have the power and influence to do so. With my best wishes, Maurice Dr. Maurice White M.D.
This challenge closed on 01/11/2023. Please click the Official Decrypt button above to see the correct answers.