I enjoy reading speculative fiction (since I write it myself) so I was intrigued when I saw the synopsis for The Gettysburg Cypher by K. R. Eckert. I had to read it and happy I did.
The book opens right before the battle of Gettysburg with men planning to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln. Naturally, the plan fails but one of the cohorts manages to hand off a Bible, containing codes, cyphers and information pertaining to the scheme to a preacher just before he dies.
Present time: An historian from the Smithsonian receives a diary from another member of the conspiracy which talks of the plot against Lincoln. Since this is big news, it is broadcast across the nation.
Descendants of the original plotters (the Brigade) are still in the Asheville, North Carolina area and hanging onto the ideals of their ancestors. They’re fanatical in their defense of the beliefs of the South, to the point that even the murder of innocent children is not too much for them. When news of the diary breaks, they are spurred into action.
The main action of the novel is the pursuit of the old Bible, which if found, would be devastating to the Brigade and their goal to win the Civil War. Since they have no idea where it is, they kidnap the family of the great-great-grandson (now a Monsignor) of the preacher who received the Bible from the dying spy in 1863.
The Monsignor has only heard of the Bible from his childhood and doubts it exists but has no choice but to find it to save his niece and her young son. He teams up with History Hunters Paul Davenport and Sara Walsh to help him in this seemingly impossible task.
I first thought the novel involved time travel since the character known as the ‘Colonel’ appears in both the Civil War segment and the present but eventually all became clear.
The Gettysburg Cypher is a fun read. Although there wasn’t much of the ‘cypher’ aspect, in many ways it was better than Dan Brown’s work. The best part of the novel to me is Eckert’s depiction of the Civil War seen through the eyes of the participants. He has a way of bringing the past alive.