Devlin's Revenge

Bonus — I also propose a solution to the mystery of the famous “Dorabella Cipher” that has puzzled cryptologists ever since the composer Edward Elgar scribbled it on a note to a young woman with whom he was probably in love before immortalizing her in the “Enigma” Variations:

Morse code:  I am.  Am I? A phrase and then the reverse.  A phrase and then the reverse. A yearning, strange and ineffable.  Hesitant, coy and coquettish by turns, masterful and manly by others.  Everyone assumed that the work was as Elgar said: portraits of various friends.  Program music, the scholars called it.

But what if that, too, was all misdirection?  What if the central enigma of the Enigma Variations wasn’t so enigmatic after all, but hiding right there in plain sight.  There, hidden away in one of the lesser variations — not the magisterial “Nimrod,” which had come, like the Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1, to symbolize the very spirit of Victorian Britain itself, but the one that immediately followed it.

The “Dorabella” variation.

The squiggly “eeees.”

The squiggly, ornamented melodic line of the “Dorabella” Variation, supposedly mean to express the girl’s slight hesitancy in her speech patterns.  But listen closer: the variation does not simply depict one person, but two.  The strings twitter, but the woodwinds answer.

Dora.  Bella.  Dora the Beautiful.

And she is having a conversation with the composer.


The most recent installment, Shock Warning, wraps up the Skorzeny plot line, concluding in the Iranian desert where Jimmy Carter’s presidency came to an ignominious end, but with the destruction of the Persian nuclear program via the Stuxnet virus (introduced into their system by a poisoned pawn in the form of an NSA computer) and some timely derring-do from Devlin and his mysterious Iranian girlfriend, Maryam. There’s also a vivid description of a Muslim attack on a Christian church in Cairo and religious riots in Kaduna, Nigeria. And the sudden, holographic apparition of the Virgin Mary. And a suitcase nuke at Mt. Sinai Medical Center. Hey — it could happen. Some of it, anyway.

Back in the real world, I’m inclined to agree with my friends AndyJohn Yoo, and Jack Dunphy — data-mining, after all, is what professional data miners do. (You’d be amazed at how much intel is gleaned from open-source material — hello Twitter and Facebook!) The question is not what capabilities outfits like the NSA and CSS have — the Black Widow sees all — but whether we trust the folks at the top with our open secrets.


By the way, the fourth Devlin book is on its way — fast and furiously.

(Cross-posted from NRO's The Corner.)

(Thumbnail on PJM homepage based on a modified image.)