Cryptography — we have seen it everywhere, from the movie screens to the morning news. In fact, so much so that you might even begin to get tired of hearing about it. You may just start to associate it with a couple of things that are easy to remember like The Imitation Games or the NSA (National Security Agency), but that right there is the problem: Mary Queen of Scots, Julius Caesar, Elizabeth I, Xerxes — do these names sound familiar when you think about cryptography? Probably not. That is why Singh chooses to introduce them in Chapter 1.
Upon opening the book to the first page, you, the reader, are immediately introduced to a grim scenario where Mary Queen of Scots is standing trial for a plot to assassinate Elizabeth I. Only one thing remains in question: the contents of an encrypted message that Mary sent to her alleged conspirators. Singh wastes no time in telling you that the letter actually does incriminate her of the crime, but now you are left wondering whether Elizabeth’s court will actually break the encryption. Immediately, your attention shifts from the contents of the letter to the cryptography around it and thus an excitement is born.
If Singh had chosen to start his book off in a later time with more classical examples of cryptography, the reader would not be as captivated as they are by the examples and times his book starts off with now.
It is this excitement for cryptography that most forms of media fail to elicit out of people, yet Singh manages to do so within the first, two pages a book. That excitement eventually fuels more curiosity as the reader realizes that they have only read about the fundamentals — substitution and transposition — which beckons the question, “what else is there to learn?”