The Dakota Cipher
A highly entertaining quest tale, The Dakota Cipher finds American adventurer Ethan Gage on a mission in the Louisiana Territory at the behest of France’s Napoleon and President Thomas Jefferson. The story commences in 1800 at the Convention of Mortefontaine. The opportunistic Gage curtails a romantic interlude with Pauline Bonaparte when an attempt is made on his life, returning to America in company with Norwegian Magnus Bloodhammer, whom Gage describes as a “Viking berserker.” Magnus is seeking Norway’s independence from Denmark as well as Thor’s Hammer, a Norse artifact rumored to control weather and lightning. Gage, a student of electricity under Benjamin Franklin, believes the Norwegian half daft, but encouraged by the leaders of America and France and the possibility of treasure, he accompanies Magnus into the middle of America, past the end of civilization.
One of the greatest pleasures of the novel is Dietrich’s depiction of America’s Great Lakes region, the wildness and extent of which hero Ethan Gage refreshingly admits frightens him. The magnificent setting is populated with a vivid French-Canadian fur trader as an unlikely and colorful ally, and American Indians, both good and bad, who accompany Ethan Gage and Magnus on exciting canoe chases and pursuit by enemies old and new. The Dakota Cipher is a winning thriller and historical adventure novel.