Nick Carter – The Cipher Letter

| November 2, 2012

Nick Carter Detective Library

The Cipher Letter;
Or, Nick Carter’s Iron Nerve
By Frederic Van Rensselaer Dey

This is issue #5 in the Nick Carter Dime Novel Library, originally published September 5, 1891 by Frederic Van Rensselaer Dey.

The fifth story in the series of weekly novelettes published in the Nick Carter Library contains a number of “firsts” in the Nick Carter stories written by Frederic Dey. This is the first appearance of Nick’s wife Ethel since John Coryell’s serials in the New York Weekly and it is possible the publishers were responsible for suggesting this. It is also the first time the reader is introduced to several of Nick’s crime fighting tools, his pocket lantern and special knife, and this is done in a way that makes the reader feel privileged to be let in on the secrets of the great New York detective. The mention of such tools adds cohesiveness to the series. And it is the first time Nick is spotted by the person whom he is shadowing and that really irritates him.

Nick Carter is noted for being resourceful and this case certainly requires him to use all of his resources. There are two cipher messages, one more difficult to solve than the other, but he works them out to his satisfaction and that of the reader who is allowed to follow his reasoning in some detail. It is Nick’s wife Ethel who finds the first cipher concealed in a tube buried in the dirt in an urn in Madison Square and brings it to her husband who does not recognize its value at first. He is more intrigued by the mysterious letter received by Inspector Byrnes of the New York Police Department even though he thinks it a hoax. Still, he agrees to investigate when Byrnes asks his help and immediately begins disguising himself. The Inspector praises Nick’s ability with disguises, but the detective shrugs off such praise by saying that he has made it the study of his life and adds “All things are possible when one is determined to accomplish them.”

The case involves an abducted child, a retired blind banker named Archibald Kempton who is the target of a murder plot, and a scheme to steal an inheritance. In his disguise as a detective named Philips, Nick is trapped in an apartment that is set on fire. Unable to find a way out through doors, windows, or even through the walls, Nick escapes by ripping up the carpet and the floorboards and kicking his way into the room below.

Chick, introduced in the previous story, is a full-fledged assistant in this one, and already as adept at disguise as his mentor. Nick also makes use of another helper, Peleg Smart, whom he apparently calls upon in emergencies.

Among the significant aspects of the Nick Carter stories are the many items of everyday life of the time that are mentioned in passing. Ethel is looking at a “fashion plate” when she observes a woman who buries the tube with the first cipher message and copies the cipher onto it so she may take it to her husband. How many of the boy readers of Nick Carter in 1891 would know what a fashion plate was?

J. Randolph Cox
Editor, Dime Novel Round-Up


We have recovered the full length novel of Nick Carter’s – The Cipher Letter and reproduced it for immediate download in Adobe Acrobat PDF format.

Category: Nick Carter

Dave Buchanan

About the Author ()

While I'm not the author of the books on this website, I'm a treasure hunter of sorts, collecting, archiving and reproducing rare, out-of-print books from some of the most talented writers in the world. Dime Novel Castle was created to be an online library featuring some of the world’s most famous characters from the dime novel era. My goal is to create textually correct reproductions of select rare, out-of-print Dime Novels and serials, published from 1860 thru 1915. My team of researchers has searched all over the country in order to locate the original newspapers, books and manuscripts. Each page of the original publication is scanned and archived in order to preserve the author's place in history and pass these great stories on to future generations.

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