Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Cryptographer

Tobias Hill's novel is described as a thriller in the SUNDAY TIMES review that's quoted on the cover. It's too measured and reflective to be that, in my view, and is none the worse for it. Neither is it science fiction, though it is set a little way in the future, when hard currency has ceased to exist and has been replaced by an electronic currency, Soft Gold. The global economy depends on it, and it in turn depends on the (supposedly) unbreakable code in which is encrypted. The creator of the code is John Law, a fabulously wealthy businessman, and the story begins when the tax inspector, Anna Moore, is sent to track down discrepancies in his accounts. As she begins to penetrate the layers of mystery surrounding Law, a mutual attraction develops between them . . .
Hill is an award-winning poet and it shows in the elegance and precision of his writing, which offers a series of little surprises in its aptness of description and metaphor. It's written in the present tense, always difficult to pull off, I feel, but it works.
As an aside, I might add that I once worked for the Inland Revenue. It soon became clear that my talents lay elsewhere and I left before my mistakes caught up with me.

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