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Salem's Cipher

(A Salem's Cipher Mystery #1)

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  290 ratings  ·  70 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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3.73  · 
Rating details
 ·  290 ratings  ·  70 reviews

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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
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
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
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.
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 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 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
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. :)
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!
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
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
Jul 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: my-reviews
I didn't get too far into this book; it was creeping me out. I'm not much for books or movies that creep me out. This has nothing what-so-ever to do with Lourey's story-telling, I'm just not the one to judge. I grew up in and around Minneapolis so it was nice seeing the settings in familiar places, some of which were my stomping grounds. Also, it's not the author's fault that I have a hard time following story lines that flip in and out and around characters, scenes and timeframes, so I can't pr ...more
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
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
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.
Nov 06, 2017 rated it liked it
The book's content has potential: revitalizing the Salem's witch hunt with a touch of cryptanalysis. The female leads try to bring down a organization that is two millennia old. However, the codes that the author includes appear too easy for the struggles that the characters have to go through.
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?
Mar 29, 2019 rated it liked it
This book was the kind of mystery/thriller I needed after several heavy, serious reads. Won it as part of a gift basket in a silent auction. It's like Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code in America...but with a feminist twist. Requires a definite suspension of disbelief, but I was totally down for it.
Aug 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: kathy-s-shelf
Even though different exciting things were happening, I just couldn't get too involved in the story. It was all right. It was recommended as a read-alike for "The Da Vinci Code", but was not nearly as good.
Aug 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So enjoyable!

This book was fast paced and fun! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it!!! I do wish Bel and Salem ended up a couple...that always wrecks it though, doesn’t it? My fan fiction in my brain has them together!
Jan 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Interesting read...Part 1 of 2, I think. Kind of a scavenger hunt with mystery too.
May 14, 2017 rated it liked it
DaVinci Code light, for women. Quick read, some interesting locations.
Apr 07, 2018 rated it it was ok
I technically didn’t finish this book. Sounded so promising but it just didn’t keep my interest.
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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 Mystery #2)