The Dead Sea Cipher

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Overview

It was the start of a grand adventure in a land of antiquity, a rare opportunity to visit biblical places shrouded in mystery. But in a Jerusalem hotel room a world away from everything she knows, Dinah van der Lyn hears angry voices through the wall, followed by a crash and a brief cry in English...for help! The brutal shattering of an evening's stillness becomes a prelude to terror. Without warning, Dinah has been unwittingly pulled into something unholy transpiring in a sacred city, and she must find answers ...
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The Dead Sea Cipher

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Overview

It was the start of a grand adventure in a land of antiquity, a rare opportunity to visit biblical places shrouded in mystery. But in a Jerusalem hotel room a world away from everything she knows, Dinah van der Lyn hears angry voices through the wall, followed by a crash and a brief cry in English...for help! The brutal shattering of an evening's stillness becomes a prelude to terror. Without warning, Dinah has been unwittingly pulled into something unholy transpiring in a sacred city, and she must find answers hidden in the shadows. And she must trust an enigmatic stranger as she races through ancient, twisting streets teeming with secrets and peril, a man who may be leading her to safety...or to her doom.

Dinah Van der Lyn heard the cries for help through her hotel room wall, cries in English in the middle of Beirut. She thought the men were simply drunk and fighting. Her mistake was the first step on an odyssey of terror that would Take Dinah to the fabled cities of Sidon, Tyre and Damascus.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
A vacationing tourist gets more than she bargains for when she visits old Jerusalem.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780380731145
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 7/28/2001
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 4.18 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Peters

Elizabeth Peters earned her Ph.D. in Egyptology from the University of Chicago's famed Oriental Institute. She was named Grand Master at the inaugural Anthony Awards in 1986 and Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America in 1998. In 2003, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Malice Domestic Convention. She lives in a historic farmhouse in western Maryland.

Biography

Neither the Great Depression nor the lack of a public library in her small hometown of Canton, Illinois, deterred Barbara Mertz (the future Elizabeth Peters) from becoming an avid reader. Yet, when her family moved to a suburb of Chicago, she was elated to discover the riches contained in the town's local library and proceeded to devour every book she could get her hands on. She began writing in high school; but by that time she had already decided to become an archaeologist.

Mertz received a scholarship to the University of Chicago, which boasted a world-famous Egyptology department. Her mother, an eminently practical soul, encouraged her daughter to become a teacher; but after taking only two education courses, Mertz knew a career in the classroom was not for her. Determined to follow her dream, she moved over to the university's Oriental Institute, and received her Ph.D. in Egyptology at the age of 23.

The post-WWII job market wasn't kind to women in general, much less to women seeking careers in archaeology. Mertz married and began a family, but never lost sight of her life's ambition. While she was raising her two children, she decided to try her hand at writing. Her first few attempts were never published, but they did land her an agent; and in 1964 she published her first book, Temples, Tombs and Hieroglyphs: A Popular History of Ancient Egypt.

Mertz authored two additional works on archaeology before foraying into fiction in 1966. The Master of Blacktower is the first of several gothic suspense novels written under the pseudonym Barbara Michaels. (In her biography, she explains that the use of pseudonyms helps readers to distinguish various types of books written by a single author.) The supernatural elements in the thrillers penned under the Michaels name have kept readers on the edge of their seats for decades.

In the 1970s, Mertz began writing under her second, more famous pseudonym, Elizabeth Peters. As Peters, she has authored books in three different series. Beginning in 1972 with The Seventh Sinner (1972), the first series features a glamorous librarian-turned-romance novelist named Jacqueline Kirby (the final Jacqueline Kirby mystery, Naked Once More, won a coveted Agatha Award in 1989). The second series, starring American art historian Vicky Bliss, debuted in 1973 with Borrower of the Night (Vicky's last outing was 2008's Laughter of Dead Kings). Then, in 1975, Peters introduced her most famous protagonist, archeologist/sleuth Amelia Peabody, in a dandy adventure entitled Crocodile on the Sandbank.

From the first, readers loved Amelia, a plucky Victorian feminist who—together with her husband, the distinguished Egyptologist Radcliffe Emerston—has gone on to solve countless mysteries in the Middle East. Peabody fans received an extra treat in 2003 with Amelia Peabody's Egypt: A Compendium to Her Journals, a nonfiction stroll through ancient Egypt that included nearly 600 photographs and illustrations, plus expert academic articles.

In addition to her three series, Mertz has written several standalone suspense novels as Elizabeth Peters. She has this to say about her successful, prolific career: "The craft of writing delights me. It is impossible to attain perfection; there is always something more to be learned—figuring out new techniques of plotting or characterization, struggling with recalcitrant sentences until I force them to approximate my meaning. And nothing is ever wasted. Everything one sees and hears, everything one learns, can be used."

Good To Know

The pseudonym Elizabeth Peters is taken from her two children, Elizabeth and Peter. She uses three pseudonyms so readers can tell the difference between the three types of books she writes: nonfiction archaeology as Barbara Mertz, supernatural thrillers as Barbara Michaels and historical mysteries as Peters. For the record, Mertz has called the pseudonyms "a horrible nuisance."
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    1. Also Known As:
      Barbara Mertz, Barbara Michaels
    2. Hometown:
      A farm in rural Maryland
    1. Date of Birth:
      September 29, 1927
    2. Place of Birth:
      Canton, Illinois
    1. Date of Death:
      August 8, 2013

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

"Had I but known," Dinah said, under her breath.

From the balcony of her hotel room she looked out on a view lovely enough to stir a less romantic heart than hers. The Mediterranean was as calm as a country pond. Separated from her hotel only by the palm-fringed boulevard of the Avenue de Paris, it reflected the splendor of an eastern sunset. The scarlet and gold and copper of the sky were softened in the reflection, which shimmered dreamily as the slow breakers slid in to shore.

The girl leaned her elbows on the balcony rail, planted her chin firmly on her hands, and went on muttering to herself.

"If I had known, I wouldn't have been so excited about coming. That sunset is practically an insult. What's the point of watching a sunset like that by yourself? They say Beirut is the swingingest city east of Suez...."

The sunset spread itself like a peacock's tail, luminous and brilliant, across the horizon. Against the tapestry of light the silhouettes of palms stood out, black and bizarre. Finally Dinah's face mellowed, like the fading light, and her grumble died into silence. She was given to soliloquizing. Talking to yourself, as other, less sensitive, people called it. The sign of a weak mind.

Dinah grinned sheepishly. The trouble, dear Horatio, was not in the city, but in herself. Beirut was a marvelous place: romantic, picturesque, colorful. Presumably it also swang, or swung, whatever the past tense of that verb might be. But a respectable young woman, traveling alone, the daughter of a minister, touring the Lands of the Bible underparental auspices, and with parental funds, could not reasonably expect to do much swinging.

Dinah looked wistfully to her right, where the lamplit Avenue de Paris swung in an arc along the shore. Somewhere down there was the downtown area of Beirut: the glamorous hotels, the famous restaurants and night clubs. She had hoped to stay at the Phoenicia, or one of the other new hotels. From what she had heard, a lot of interesting activities went on there. Unfortunately, her father had read the same guidebooks. He had read all the guidebooks. He was a fanatical armchair traveler, in the saddest sense; for the chair was a wheelchair, to which he had been confined for almost ten years.

Dinah's mobile face changed, her long, expressive mouth drooping poignantly. So much for the Hotel Phoenicia. This trip was not for her; it was for her father. He considered sentimentality an unfair burden on the people he lived with, so his voice had been matter-of-fact when he discussed the trip. But she knew him too well to miss the undertones.

"Seeing something long desired through another's eyes is hardly satisfactory," he said, looking, not at her, but at the travel folders he held in his hands. "That consideration should not influence you in the slightest. I thought perhaps ..."

The folders were printed in bright colors, with names out of an antique past: the Holy Land, Jerusalem, Damascus; the Walls of Jericho, "the rose-red city half as old as time." The thin, blue-veined hands held the circulars spread out, like a deck of cards.

"Of course I'm dying to go," Dinah had heard herself saying. "'Haven't you had years in which to indoctrinate me? I'm as crazy as you are."

He had dropped the travel folders on his desk and looked up, his keen brown eyes searching. Then he grinned. The wide, cheeky smile sat incongruously on his ascetic features, but it was an expression of that side of her father she loved best.

"Fine," he said briskly. "And don't bother sending me postcards, will you? Can't abide the things."

"I won't keep a diary, either," she promised; and her own grin was a reflection of his.

The sunset was fading now into a haze of soft lavender. Dinah propped her elbows more firmly on the rail. The tour through the region her father had made his particular study would never have occurred if the miracle hadn't happened first. Bless Frau Schmidt, or whatever her name was -- Frau something, without doubt, for it was the happy consequence of her marital status that had given Dinah the chance so many young singers dreamed of. Not that the local opera house of Hildesberg was Salzburg, or the Met; but it was a beginning, a real professional job. And it could be a stepping-stone to more exciting places.

Dinah knew she was lucky to have the chance. There weren't that many openings, and the competition was keen. If her voice teacher hadn't happened to know the director; if she hadn't sung for Herr Braun when he was last in the States...He had remembered her when Frau Schmidt discovered, right in the mid le of the season, that she was about to become a mother. Luckily, motherhood as a cause for retirement had advantages over more abrupt accidents. It would be another month before Frau Schmidt reached such proportions that she couldn't bow during curtain calls.

Hildesberg, Germany ... Dinah wished, not for the first time, that her German were better. She had the trained ear that a singer must have, and could render Wagner and Weber and The Magic Flute with every umlaut in place; but her vocabulary was limited. The gods of the Nibelungenlied do not come naturally into a conversation. She smiled to herself, recalling the librettos she knew.

"Zu Hilfe! Zu Hilfe! Sonst bin ich verloren! Der listigen Schlange zum Opfer erkoren!"

The opening tenor recitative in her favorite Mozart opera had always struck her as particularly hilarious; now, in the veiling darkness of her balcony, she forgot herself and gave it a little too much Angst. The Dead Sea Cipher. Copyright © by Elizabeth Peters. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 8 of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2013

    Excellent Archaeological Mystery

    Peters' "The Dead Sea Cipher" is a terrific mystery filled with intriguing characters. While a murder does ccur at the beginning of the story, this is more an espionage adventure than a traditional murder mystery.

    Fair warning, though: the ending is infuriating. -- lyradora

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2000

    An old book, but a great read!

    This is a book from earlier in Peter's career, but is one of my favorites. Suspense and mystery with her trademark slight touch of crazy thrown in! A must if you like her books with archeology as a major theme.

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