Non-Fiction - True Crime
247 Pages
Reviewed on 07/18/2021
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Susan Sewell for Readers' Favorite

The murder of a young girl is the start of a series of circumstances leading to the solution of three perplexing crimes from the twentieth century in the thrilling non-fiction true crime story, Encoded: Based On True Events by R.W. Gates. Growing up near the crash site of the Hindenburg, the father of R.W. Gates is fascinated with the idea that the explosion was an act of terrorism. A Naval Intelligence Officer and an enigmatologist, the mysterious case of the Somerton Man had always intrigued him. Just before R.W. reaches his teen years, one of his friends dies at the hands of a killer near his home in Lakehurst, New Jersey. His father promises R.W. the perpetrator will receive his punishment, and not long after, the prediction proves to be accurate. When another girl disappears within the year, R.W. and his father believe the cases have a link that connects them. Sometime later, a transient woman comes to Lakehurst and gives R.W. and his father incriminating information that links the Hindenburg H-Code with the Zodiac Killer. How are they connected? Do they relate in any way to the Somerton Man?

The codes from the Somerton Man, the Zodiac Killer, and the Hindenburg are explored in the riveting memoir, Encoded: Based On True Events by R.W. Gates. This book is phenomenal! The author had an extraordinary father and a unique childhood that is a fascinating tale in itself. Written as a story, I was captivated by the out-of-the-ordinary incidents and historical revelations; the information and events R.W. Gates covers are astounding. The account, founded on historical events, includes photographs of the codes and some of the instrumental people in the memoir. This tale is engrossing from the first page to the last. It promises to thrill and entertain armchair sleuths and crime story enthusiasts who love to solve puzzles.

Cassie Widjaja

Encoded by R.W. Gates is an incredible true crime book bound to keep you on your toes. Coming from his mother's journal, an insidious cassette tape, his memories, and his father's remarkable deeds, the author tells a story chock-full of plot twists and family secrets. The never-before-seen, seemingly unbreakable encoded message within the Somerton Man Code is central to the plot. This story begins in New Jersey's quiet rural town of Lakehurst where several strange incidents have happened, most notably the highly publicized Hindenburg Disaster. Another mysterious incident would be the disappearance of a teenage girl from Horicon Lake in 1972. Now, the origin for the notorious Zodiac Killer case, Lakehurst lies in a tangled web of deceit. To unravel the mystery, our protagonist follows a series of perplexing clues leading halfway around the world to the enigma surrounding the unidentified body found on Somerton Beach in 1948.

R.W. Gates hit the ball out of the park with Encoded! I love how he connected his personal experiences to the crimes in Lakehurst, effectively developing the storyline in a way that is easy to follow and understand. By including photos of a criminal, handwritten cover sheets, and poems, Gates kept me engaged throughout the story. Each sentence of the story advances the plot and serves a purpose. Gates truly is a mastermind for succeeding in making his story come together, even with all the cryptic clues and perplexing codes. This book is a must-read for those interested in mysteries!

Lesley Jones

In Encoded by R.W. Gates, the disappearance of a young girl in 1972 would plunge the small town of Lakehurst, New Jersey into the media spotlight. When her body is discovered, many believe she is the latest victim of the notorious Zodiac killer. As the hunt for the killer intensifies, the horrifying murder would also become the pivotal moment when one girl's search for the truth would encapsulate a huge portion of her life. It was in Lakehurst, famous for the Hindenburg disaster, that a series of unexplainable events would draw an 11-year-old girl into a world of local folklore and legend. She would soon follow her father’s life goal of solving the mysterious final coded message of the Somerton Man, a man cloaked in espionage and found dead in Adelaide in 1948. Many decryption experts had tried and failed to break the code. As the pieces of the puzzle are slowly put together, she uncovers a dark connection to many historical events, serial killers, and secret organizations. Will the Somerton Man’s encrypted message finally be solved, and whose reputation is threatened if the truth is revealed?

Encoded by R.W. Gates is such a compelling read. The plot is outstanding; it is full of intrigue and mystery which is slowly uncovered as each layer of the puzzle is unraveled. I loved the historical references throughout, from WWII, Son of Sam and the Manson murders to the dark side of secret societies, British royalty, and Jack The Ripper; this plot was absolute perfection. The letters, short stories, and photographs added even more interest to the story. The twists and turns throughout were exceptional; they were both clever and gripping. The characters were also amazing, their personalities were incredibly unique and interesting. The story could be compared to falling down a rabbit hole into the dark side of society and finding a maze of horrors, surprises, and knowledge that is sometimes hard to comprehend. This book will make you examine the role of news and the media, and also the secretive behavior of those with power and influence. A highly recommended read for those lovers of intelligent, thought-provoking books.

Nicholus Schroeder

Encoded by R. W. Gates is a non-fiction book based on real-life events. It tackles multiple mysteries such as the H-Code, an encrypted document found amongst the wreckage of the Hindenburg, a German airship consumed by flames in 1937 just before landing. For many years, no one could unravel the infamous H-code, but in 1970, Gates' father cracked it and shed light on the events that led to the fate of Hindenburg. The central mystery the book aims to reveal to the reader is the abduction of one Grace Cohen, a troubled girl influenced by the evil actions and despair of those around her, such as the Zodiac Killer case and the Burning The Scarecrow article, to name a few. All had a part in altering her mindset and her unfortunate and untimely demise.

The premise of Encoded is captivating. I have not read a book that demands my attention and focus as Encoded does in quite some time. Each chapter builds upon the last and throws in a new mystery or revelation that makes taking a break from reading quite a difficult task. The pacing is just right; I never once felt I was moving too fast or skipping over essential plot points. The tension conveyed in some chapters is palpable. I had to remind myself occasionally that it's okay for me to breathe because I'm not the one hiding from a creepy biker or being held hostage in a dark, dank room by someone that appeared to be kind. The inclusion of excerpts from articles and R. W. Gates' personal collection made me enjoy Encoded even more. I got to play detective and try to decipher the hidden meaning behind texts. Although Encoded isn’t part of the thriller genre, it was more exciting than most thrillers I’ve read.