When a sacred relic is stolen from its subterranean guarded vault, Dr. Steven Cross, amateur cryptographer, becomes embroiled in a deadly quest to decipher one of history's most enigmatic documents - a 15th century parchment written entirely in unbreakable code: The Voynich Manuscript. Stalked by secret societies and aided by the daughter of a murdered colleague, a trail of riddles catapults Cross from England to Italy to the Middle East, where a Byzantine web of ancient secrets leads him to a revelation so profound it will change the world order.
The Voynich Cypher is the second novel featuring Dr. Steven Archer Cross. The first is the Zero Sum trilogy omnibus.
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Q & A with Russell Blake
Q: What is the Voynich Manuscript that is the basis of your novel?
RB: The Voynich Manuscript is a medieval manuscript from the fifteenth century written entirely in a cypher - a code that has withstood the decryption efforts of the best minds in cryptography. Rare book dealer Wilfred Voynich discovered it in 1912 among the possessions of a recently deceased Jesuit General in Italy, and ever since it surfaced it's captivated the imaginations of cryptographers for a century. It is one of the true mysteries of modern times, and remains as enigmatic as when it first saw the light of day.
Q: How would you describe the book?
RB: It's a treasure hunt, mystery and adventure, in the tradition of Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum, Dan Brown's work, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. I love the way the book turned out, even if it is a departure for me. I have wanted to write a book like this for a long time, but never found a suitably inspirational idea until this one forced its way into my consciousness. This is a book that will polarize readers. Some will hate it because of the religious implications, and view it as heretical. Others will love it. I don't think there will be much in between.
Q: This is the second book featuring Dr. Steven Cross. Tell us about him.
RB: Dr. Cross first appeared in my Wall Street thriller, Zero Sum, as the protagonist. Only the first half of that story he was Dr. Steven Archer, but was forced to change his name and adopt a new identity to avoid being killed. Voynich is a continuation of that story, and picks it up 5 years from where Zero Sum left off. I've always liked Steven - he's an interesting mix of Zen sensibility and American entrepreneur, with some academic thrown in. I thought the mix was a novel one - a former soldier who never fit in or felt comfortable in his skin, who meditates and is into martial arts, but is also mildly OCD and takes up esoteric pursuits - fundamental analysis, watch collecting, cryptography. I like the character because he's so atypical - hard to pin down or pigeonhole. He's funny, but scary smart in a detached way, and while brave, is also fearful of connection in the real world. My hope is readers will find him in Voynich and then go back and see the story of how he evolved in Zero Sum.
Q: Who is The Voynich Cypher targeted at? Who's the ideal reader?
RB: Smart, hip, demanding readers who want a meal, not a snack. For me, so many of the adventure thrillers fall flat, their authors seeming tired or out of things to say. This is a robust book written to satisfy at a number of levels, and as with all my work, creates more questions than it answers. My goal is to create a rush of an adventure unlike anything most readers can find elsewhere. It's a breakneck, unflinching juggernaut of a book, and I think anyone who enjoys this genre will be happily surprised by the quality and depth of the story, characters and writing.
The Voynich Cypher is approximately 100,000 words in length, and features Dr. Steven Archer Cross from Russell Blake's Wall Street thriller, Zero Sum.