cover image The Cipher

The Cipher

John C. Ford. Viking, $17.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-670-01542-9

Ford (The Morgue and Me) weaves a twisty, paranoid tale of technology, secrets, and lies, as 18-year-old Robert “Smiles” Smylie, heir to a major software security company, gets caught up in a thrilling caper. By solving the fabled Riemann Hypothesis, Smiles’s friend Ben has developed a program that can crack any private code in the world. In the right hands, it could be worth millions. Smiles’s plan: sell the program to the government for a fortune before they simply take Ben and his discovery away for their own purposes. With the mysterious Erin as their accomplice, the team seems poised to succeed—until things go horribly wrong. With Ben in the hands of the NSA, the program stolen, and Smiles’s father’s company on the line, Smiles has to play all sides against the middle. Ford capably juggles several threads as he pulls off a complicated series of plans and double-crosses, as well as the mathematical angle that makes the story’s MacGuffin possible and plausible. The end result is an unpredictable story with some audacious twists. Ages 12–up. Agent: Sara Crowe, Harvey Klinger. (Feb.)