The Denouement: Christen Catlin tells how she solved the mystery.

christmas puzzle First of all, thank you David and Lorien for writing such a delightful set of stories and a really great puzzle.  I loved how the clues were spread out through all the stories.  I wanted to keep reading the book, first, because the stories were entertaining, and second, because I wanted to figure out who the storytellers were. Excellent job! Also, thank you for the prize worth a million dollars!  To an English teacher who especially loves 19th century literature, the books are golden!
When I was first introduced to the five strangers, I recognized two immediately. Emily, with her white dress, black moods and poetry could only be Dickinson.  Second, Oscar had to be Wilde by his description in the first chapter, then I got confirmation with his character Ernesto, and then more confirmation from the trailer: jokers are wild.  The third character to be revealed was AC, first by the detective story he told, and I also know that David is a big fan of Sherlock Holmes.  So, then I needed George and Jack.  
Jack London and John Krakauer popped into my head but were ruled out because Emily was the only American. I kept reading.  
George’s story was kind of a science fiction story, and the trailer pointed to ORson Welles, but of course Welles is American and not a George. So, George ORwell.
When I read Jack’s story, I recognized the allegory plus the fantasy as either JRR Tolkien or CS Lewis.  Tolkien made more sense because his first name is John. I thought the names Edmund and Lucy were chosen to show Tolkien’s friendship with Lewis. Also, the trailer had something about an epic journey, and no one is more epic than Tolkien. So there I had it…or so I thought…
So, I had to figure out the email address.  I saw that the first number in each set was either a 1, 2, or 3, so I looked for some way that the book had three, which led me to Emily’s rules poem.  I tried looking for letters, and tried various combinations, then I got frustrated so I called in my secret weapon, Daryl.  (He is also handsome and my husband.)  He kept focusing on the (title, 1, 2) and the (3, 1, 2)s.  So, that kept us focused, and also Daryl said that I should be looking for words instead of letters.  
Once we figured (stanza, line, word) out, it was like the fog lifted! BAM, I ordered the authors by birth order, then used the last names’ initials and sent off my email….and it was returned.  SO, there must be seven authors, so I put in David and Lorien Megill, no luck.  Then, I kept thinking about the shade in the story and relating it to the Holy Spirit, and God is our author, etc.  Jesus HAD to be the answer!  Daryl told me I was over thinking it.  I scoffed at his secular thinking, but that didn’t help either.  
A few details still bothered me. I re-read the introduction a few times, and some of the clues were not quite fitting…back to George and Jack.  Did George Orwell have a medical background? Finally HG Wells dawned on me.  (Orson WELLes) (Why so many wells in science fiction?)  I liked Wells better also because now Tolkien was last in birth order, and A.C. said that Jack seemed “out of time, making references to events the rest of them couldn’t seem to grasp.” So, Tolkien should be last in birth order.  AND YET, still my email was returned with address unknown!! Let me try to fit the shade/Christmas Fairy/Spirit/Jesus into the order again.  Hmmm…
CS Lewis was still on my mind.  Why would Tolkien use his friend’s characters’ names instead of his own? Also, the allegory was so obvious, and I remember something about Tolkien criticizing Lewis about being so obvious in his stories.  I googled CS Lewis, and of course one of the first facts about him is that his friends and family called him Jack! (Tricky David!)  
Elation!! Now, I still had to try the address with five storytellers and with seven…and seven storytellers was of course right, with David and Lorien being the sixth and seventh in their Sophie’s World way.  (I loved all the allusions to authors, besides the storytellers.  I feel like I am in on the SECRET.  (Did I mention that I am reading The Hidden Life, also by Mr. Megill?)) Finally, my email stayed sent!!!  I was buzzing all night, and did a victory dance when David replied to my email with congratulations!!! Yay!  I’m a winner!!  Again, thank you, David and Lorien! I had so much fun with the mystery and adventure!! ( I also loved that I could bond with my husband in the process!)
Thank you!!
Christen Catlin
Thanks so much Chrissy (and Daryl) for playing and for winning!  Tomorrow evening I will post just a few clues that Chrissy may have missed, or simply neglected to mention.  I won’t post all of them though.  There should always be something to discover.  


  1. Well done. I must admit a small bit of sadness, jealousy and defeat. I got skunked by the email code. I figured out the authors (my best guesses for the authors anyway, which turned out to be correct guesses) on my first pass through the book. Christmas morning I found the code waiting on my iphone waiting to be solved… and after several days of trial and error and working several ideas and codes and research and … nothing that made a sensible email. The cause of my defeat was an inaccurate premise: I believed that the code spelled out the email address, and not a way to the email address.

    As a collector of puzzles, I must say that this book and its stories, its characters, its wide range of styles, and its message of hope were a brilliant success and an excellent Christmas present. Thank you David and Lorien.

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