DECODED is Mai Jia’s debut and a satisfying puzzle of a novel. The elements of a conventional thriller – code cracking, global espionage, secret military installations – take a back seat to an intimate character study told against the backdrop of a nation undergoing epic transformations.
The plot follows the life of Rong Jinzhen, an orphaned math genius from a family of math geniuses. This tragic story is recounted not as a spy thriller but as biography told by an investigator who draws on interviews with family members and former colleagues to piece together a meticulous reconstruction of Jinzhen’s life, starting with a family history that stretches back two generations.
The authenticity of the reportage form is bolstered by a number of subtle details: redacted country names, fictional characters referenced in a manner that assumes their familiarity to the audience, and the narrator’s late admission that he deliberately violated his commitment to scrupulous honesty by falsifying the names of two major characters for their own protection. Outside the text itself, the author’s own murky connections to the military intelligence apparatus and his account of the difficulties involved in navigating the censors to bring the novel to publication reinforce the feeling of verisimilitude.
Capel & Land will co-agent with The Grayhawk Agency.
Literary – Georgina Capel
Foreign Rights – Romily Must
Film & TV Rights – Georgina Capel