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Salem's Cipher

(A Salem's Cipher Mystery #1)

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  408 ratings  ·  86 reviews
A troubled codebreaker faces an epic plot reaching back through centuries of America's secret history

Salem Wiley is a genius cryptanalyst, courted by the world's top security agencies ever since making a breakthrough discovery in her field of quantum computing. She's also an agoraphobe, shackled to a narrow routine by her fear of public places. When her mother's disappeara
Paperback, 472 pages
Published September 8th 2016 by Midnight Ink
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Average rating 3.78  · 
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 ·  408 ratings  ·  86 reviews

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Sep 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I read Lourey's "May Day" and though I liked the book I wasn't sure I liked it enough to continue reading the Murder-by-Month series. Nor was I interested in adding yet another author to my "Must Read" list. A good friend encouraged me to request "Salem's Cipher" and -- Wow! I'm glad I did.

Featuring strong lead characters, warring secret societies, and a plot to assassinate the first viable female president of the United States, "Salem's Cipher" had enough thrills, chills, and danger to grab my
Molly T
Read this for book club and it was basically a poor man's/female version of the Da Vinci Code/Angels and Demons...except the plot/writing is more like the last few books of the Robert Langdon series...almost unreadable.

I wish I could remember all the reasons I didn't like this book, but it's been a while so a few have slipped my mind. The dialogue is terrible. The characters are one-dimensional. The story line seems ludicrous. I could get behind the craziness of Angels and Demons because Dan Bro
I would like to thank NetGalley, Midnight Ink, and Jess Lourey for the advanced digital copy in exchange for an honest review. Salem Wiley is a recluse. She is also a genius who happens to be cryptanalyst or code breaker. She and close friend, Bel Odegaard must solve a puzzle of epic proportions, where the stakes are a matter of life and death. A great story with many twists and turns, with a rich historic tone. This book has the resemblance of the great books by Dan Brown with the pull of stron ...more
Lissa Notreallywolf
Dan Brownish, if Dan Brown had feminist sensibilities and a crash course in Women's Studies. It's a conspiracy thriller with the Patriarchy represented by The Hermitage and the Underground representing a hidden matriarchy. Salem, our bottom-heavy heroine, is a computer genius and cryptographer, as well as a PTSD survivor. On this last label, she is called an agoraphobe, but it's clear that she has quite a number of triggers dating back to her Dad's drowning. Her symptoms are more along the lines ...more
Apr 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
NetGalley copy in exchange of an honest review.

The story starts with two women who get attacked one night.They knew their enemies were coming to get them, but still, they get surprised and their bodies are nowhere to be found when their daughters are called by the police and the FBI.

Salem is one of those daughers. She is a genius cryptanalyst who’s been asked many times to work for different government agencies. On arrival on the crime scene, she discovers a code that her mom left for her to fin
Julie H.
Jan 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery
Jess Lourey's Salem's Cipher felt like an ambitious mashup of The DaVinci Code and National Treasure with a bit of Indecision 2016 thrown in. Don't get me wrong, the book has a clever concept at its core: a several hundred-year (if not longer) rivalry between a women-hating male group known as The Hermitage Foundation, which I couldn't avoid reading as The Heritage Foundation, and a women-led feminist group known as the Underground whose leadership traced its roots back to Lucretia Mott and othe ...more
Victoria g moses
Good if you suspend all belief

After reading " Unspeakable Things" by this author, I wanted to read more by her. " Salem's Cipher" was highly rated by other readers so I gave it a try. There were many typos and I could not buy into the plot. I enjoy plots that stretch reality but yet are able to draw you in with other elements such as liking or even hating the main characters! This particular book was just not working for me. I do recommend Unspeakable Things though, and I may try another book by
Nov 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who likes mysteries, drama, and female lead characters.
I picked this book up on a whim while browsing the library. I thought maybe it had to do with witches; it doesn't. Pleased to know it's the first book in a series. Female protagonists? Check. Secret societies? Check. Real history mixed with believable fiction? Check. Think Rizzoli and Isles meets National Treasure.
Oct 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Reminded me of The DaVinci Code, lots of action, great characters, and lots of plot twists. I loved this book and stayed up way to late reading it!
Jul 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
A wicked smart cryptanalyst with anxiety and her gorgeous cop cousin are caught in a dangerous, ancient conspiracy that threatens the lives of those she loves and the woman expected to be elected president. For those who like action thrillers like the DaVinci Code.

From Kirkus reviews: "The fascinating historical information combined with a storyline ripped from the headlines will hook conspiracy theorists and action addicts alike."
Oct 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Fun! Kinda campy, but a great mystery and I love the idea of Emily Dickinson as a poem code writer! A great book for over a school break.
Jul 11, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: bad-fiction
Review originally published at Book of Bogan

This is the sort of book you would get if you mashed Dan Brown's back catalogue, the Nancy Drew mysteries, Scooby Doo and Clueless together in one big hot mess. If that sounds like the thing for you, well, god bless and good luck.

Two women are brought together through the kidnapping and (possible) murder of their mothers, and are sent on a cross-country journey to uncover hidden secrets in American historical sites, while on the run from a shadowy orga
Kris - My Novelesque Life
Jan 22, 2017 rated it did not like it
(I received an ARC from the NETGALLEY)


(Review Not on Blog)

"Salem Wiley is a genius cryptanalyst, courted by the world's top security agencies ever since her quantum computing breakthrough. She's also an agoraphobe shackled to a narrow routine since her father's suicide. When her intelligence work unexpectedly exposes a sinister plot to assassinate the country's first viable female presidential candidate, Salem finds herself both target and detective in a modern day witch hunt. Draw
Jul 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This fast-paced book kept me on the edge of my seat with my heart thumping! There is a bad-guy that will give me nightmares! (In a good way, of course) The relationship between the friends pulls my heart-strings. There is so much to love here. I'm excited it's the first in a series and I get to enjoy this ride again!
Katie Spina
Aug 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery, history
The DaVinci code, except the female characters all have agency.

A story set in part in Salem, Massachusetts that has NOTHING to do with witchcraft.

A feminist story of badass women fighting for all women's rights in America.

If that's not enough to convince you read this story, I don't know what will. :)
Kevin Brady
Nov 04, 2016 rated it did not like it
I can't even finish this. The feminist message in it is shoved in my face so much and so often that I just can't take it. The election plot is a thin parallel of the 2016 presidential election and it's trying to suggest that all sexist men are part of a secret order.
Sean Duggan
Aug 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
Have you watched National Treasure? Read The DaVinci Code? Well, this book aspires to be like them, but sadly falls a bit short. It's got some interesting bits. The premise for the codes and the like is solid. The protagonists aren't unlikeable. Unfortunately, the sinister conspiracy in this book is not about sociopolitical conflicts or religion, but rather the He-Man Woman-Haters Club. Yup. The main characters are part of an unbroken sisterhood that opposes a bunch of men who think girls stink ...more
I read this because it was a bookclub pick, but I’m not sure I would have finished it if that wasn’t the case. Published in 2016, I think the author was trying to capitalize on the anticipation of Hillary Clinton’s presidency and the popularity of Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code, which was used in the marketing. I haven’t read DaVinci Code, so can’t speak to how it compares. My main issues with this book are that I didn’t find it believable enough to be engaging, and there were several scenes of ex ...more
Dec 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
From the first few pages, Lourey had me hooked.

This is an exciting roller coaster ride with a ticking clock, a long-lost treasure, and so much fun to read. Lourey skillfully blends historical people and facts with fiction to keep the pages turning.

If you enjoy Dan Brown’s novels, you’ll love this one, too.

The main characters are women—strong women. Smart women who rely on themselves to decipher the complicated, hidden puzzles left for them by history. What’s at stake? The future of the United St
Anam Cara
Aug 07, 2018 rated it it was ok
I had a very difficult time reading this book.

I requested a copy from NetGalley because I have loved all the books by Jess Lourey that I read in the past. I had no idea that this one would be so.... so.... HARD. There are people brutally murdered throughout the book. The entire plot was just too violent for my taste.

It opens with two women who are obviously afraid of something or someone and a neighbor being brutally murdered while the women try to escape. Their daughters are caught up in this
Mar 31, 2018 rated it liked it
I love books based on historical fact, especially if there's a lot of action. Give me Dan Brown or Steve Berry novels any day. This new series by Jess Lourey can take its place with Brown or Berry. The characters are interesting and quirky and the history-based plot keeps the reader turning the pages. The only objection I have is the author's overwhelming feminisim being the basis of the story: a huge organization (made up of MEN) is out to destroy another organization (made up of WOMEN). Of cou ...more
Stephen Terrell
Dec 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Jess Lourey is a wonderful writer who can spin a tale like few others. Salem's Cipher, the first in a series about secret societies, hidden codes and a giant conspiracy to keep women subservient in the world, is no exception.

It starts with a kidnapping in a quiet Minnesota neighborhood, and goes like a rocketship for the next 400 pages. Salem and Bel are lifelong friends. Salem is a genius-level code-breaker while Bel is a Chicago cop. When both their mothers are kidnapped, they take off on a jo
Dec 30, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2017
Spoiler Alert...

Two childhood friends meet up in their 20s when their moms have been kidnapped and/or killed and the daughters need to solve a series of ciphers and clues to unravel the mystery. And of course, there's a menacing secret society lurking in the background chasing the daughters to the clues.

This book just never created a sense of suspense. 50 pages or so in, I just KNEW the ending - both daughters would come out alright, that they'd protect the female Presidential candidate and eve
Lanna Meyers
Jun 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Page Turner

Imagine you were interested in secret codes! Well, this book gives you an insight on how they are created and depending on the strength of the code, the difficulty in deciphering it. Although she wasn't aware, Salem was trained for years to handle many situations without even blinking. She had numerous anxieties about living her life and a decision, by her, to just stay in her comfortable town and not travel or explore new things was her mantra. However, things took a turn and forced
Aug 01, 2020 rated it liked it
In the same vein as Dan Brown, we have secret societies that are at war with each other. The twist? A group of men will do whatever it takes to make sure women don’t succeed, especially a woman who is almost guaranteed to become president. The book is fast paced and interesting, but too many things happen conveniently for my taste. It is never fully explained how the bad guys so easily track the good guys. Those issues aside, it wasn’t a bad book.
Mar 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
A well written who-done-it is my go to for the pure joy of reading as entertainment. Jess Lourey creates characters that are warm, wonderful, untrustworthy, trustworthy, lovely and despicable. In other words, they are real! Warning. It ended slightly unresolved, leaving me eager to read the next in what will be a series. Read this one for the pure rush of an exciting read.
Dec 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
Problem is that this book starts out as a feminist progressive story trying to hit all the woke points, one of the main characters is gay but a police woman, pointers towards Hilary (running for President and wears pantsuits) and the like.
It on its own could have been a better story, tighter without all that and ends up doing that in the last 1/3rd or so of the book
Linda Thorne
Dec 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
The book was good, but I'm not much for "quest" books or thrillers. Good writing, attention-grabbing, yet sometimes I felt it was a little too contrived - oddball things fixed too simply or something or someone saved someone with highly illogical timing or circumstances. Readers who love a fast-paced journey will like this. It's not a short book, but the adventure is fast-paced.
john grissom
Jul 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a wild ride!

I highly recommend this book to anyone that enjoys a fast-paced read. The pages flew by and kept me hooked from the first to the last. It has something for everyone: intrigue, puzzles, thrills, chills, a little romance and lots of twists and turns. If you only read one book this year, it should be this one!! Wow!!!
Bobbie N
Mar 23, 2017 rated it liked it
A plot to assassinate the first female presidential candidate....secret messages encrypted in Emily Dickinson group of misogynists determined to rule the world....a buried treasure....and two young women caught up in the intrigue when their mothers are kidnapped and possibly killed - and now the killers are coming after them........what more could fan of thrillers need?
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Jess Lourey writes about secrets. She is the bestselling Agatha, Anthony, and Lefty-nominated author of the critically-acclaimed Mira James mysteries, which have earned multiple starred reviews from Library Journal and Booklist, the latter calling her writing "a splendid mix of humor and suspense."

Jess also writes nonfiction, edge-of-your-seat YA adventure, magical realism, suspense novels, and t

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A Salem's Cipher Mystery (2 books)
  • Mercy's Chase (A Salem's Cipher Thriller Book 2)

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