The Other Cipher, Guest Post by Heidi Eljarbo

In the captivating second book of the Soli Hansen Mysteries, two women—separated by more than three hundred years—are connected through their love of art.

1613. Fabiola Ruber is been wed to a man she does not know and must live in a country with a new language and different customs. The memories of a lost love in her hometown Malta haunt her, and she sets out to find an artist who can do her portrait and recapture the feelings she had when she once modeled for a renowned Italian master painter.

1944. Four years into World War II, art historian Soli Hansen works with the Norwegian resistance to locate significant artwork and safeguard the pieces from the Nazis. When she finds out the Germans are after a hidden baroque depiction of a seventeenth century woman, she must muster all her courage and skills to decipher encrypted codes and preserve the mysterious art before it’s too late.

Both women are determined to do what they can to bring healing and redemption to their otherwise ominous future. Through tangled, bewildering clues and an eye for detail, Soli’s bond to Fabiola grows closer by the day. She must find the missing painting before the enemy does.

Ranging from a privileged life in seventeenth century Antwerp to Oslo during the German occupation of the second world war, this dual timeline is a historical mystery thriller that will keep you guessing until the very end.

Female Resistance Workers during WWII

The role of women who gave all for the resistance movement during WWII has often been underestimated. These women are merely mentioned as secondary characters; a wife of a brave resistance worker, someone who acted as a hostess for an undercover apartment, or a courier. The thing is, if she was caught carrying secret papers, she had the evidence right there in her basket or sewn into the lining of her coat. If the undercover apartment was raided, she was often at home. Her work was dangerous and admirably courageous.

As a young woman, I devoured novels by one of the great Norwegian authors, Vera Henriksen. When I planned an article about her for a magazine, I came across a small passage about her that surprised me. Vera Henriksen had been recruited by the clandestine intelligence organization XU in 1943. She was only 16 years old. I decided to angle the article differently and changed the focus from writing about her achievements as an author to what she was involved with during the war.

I’d written several articles about women who worked undercover in Norway and had contacted families, organizations, and museums. The research was time-consuming and rewarding. But there was little information about Vera Henriksen’s involvement with the resistance. I finally located one of her sons. He was helpful and sent me his mother’s memoirs. Grateful, I sat and read page after page how she described her parents’ participation in undercover work, how she learned about chiffer machines and secret codes as a child, and later her own dangerous tasks to thwart the enemy’s plans.

The Other Cipher is book two in a dual timeline mystery series about art historian Soli Hansen. She is part of the resistance movement in Oslo during WWII. In this novel, Soli meets up with people who decipher secret codes, something she needs when trying to find a hidden work of art before the enemy discovers it. Soli has much to learn about spying, undercover work, and ciphers. But she wants to help her country, and she has a strong desire to keep valuable art out of the hands of Adolf Hitler.

When Hitler invaded Norway in 1940, many women were willing to fight in the battle. We know the names of 1003 Norwegian women who served as undercover agents. They were mostly young working women. They risked their lives every day. In addition to that, thousands were political prisoners. Some died fighting, others were arrested, tortured, or killed. Some committed suicide. Although they were tough to the bone, many struggled the rest of their lives because of the drama and horror they’d experienced.

While many men were honored for their heroic efforts during the war, the women were often forgotten. To me, it is important to write about these women. Soli Hansen and her friend Heddy are fictional examples of how a person can find unknown courage and strength during hard times.

In The Other Cipher, the leader of the chiffer group is also a woman. She is a widow and mother of two young children who keeps on fighting for what she believes is right.

On a positive note, the Germans at that time had an old-fashioned opinion about a woman’s role in society and were not as likely to suspect her to hide guns or smuggle secret documents. Even so, living a double life was challenging and dangerous. Soli and Heddy have to face situations where keeping calm, while acting and pretending to keep their true agenda hidden from the enemy, is the only way to survive.

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Meet Heidi Eljarbo

Heidi Eljarbo is the bestselling author of historical fiction and mysteries filled with courageous and good characters that are easy to love and others you don’t want to go near.
Heidi grew up in a home filled with books and artwork and she never truly imagined she would do anything other than write and paint. She studied art, languages, and history, all of which have come in handy when working as an author, magazine journalist, and painter.
After living in Canada, six US states, Japan, Switzerland, and Austria, Heidi now calls Norway home. She and her husband have a total of nine children, thirteen grandchildren–so far–in addition to a bouncy Wheaten Terrier. Their favorite retreat is a mountain cabin, where they hike in the summertime and ski the vast, white terrain during winter.

Heidi’s favorites are family, God’s beautiful nature, and the word whimsical.
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