Members of Team Veritas

One of the things I enjoyed most about creating ‘Secret Breakers’ was being able to think and write about such a huge cast of characters.

Of course, there are people in the story who are totally made up. What makes ‘Secret Breakers’ interesting for me as a writer though, is that because I drew so much on real historical codes and ciphers I had to include real people from history in my stories as well as the made up ones! Keeping track of all these characters from the past and those from my mind was sometimes rather tricky and I have pages and pages of notes which I refer to as I write. Surprisingly, that’s one of the things which makes the writing fun for me. Like code breaking…it’s all in the details!

So, here on the ‘Team Veritas’ part of the site I’m going to share a few details about some of the main characters who find their way into the ‘Secret Breakers’ adventures. For more information about real historical characters who influenced the plot of my stories, travel over to the ‘Who’s Who’ section of the ‘World of Secret Breakers’ page. But for now…let me introduce to you the characters from ‘Team Veritas’ and tell you a little more about each of them!

Brodie Bray

Brodie kicked a loose pebble with her foot. It rolled across the pavement and then dropped into the river.…

…It made barely a ripple.‘Too small,’ thought Brodie to herself. ‘Just too small to make a difference.’
She peered down into the water. It looked thick and black like oil, her reflection rising and falling so her freckled nose seemed to grow and shrink. She kicked another pebble. This time a bigger one. The image in the water swirled beneath the weight of the pebble. She waited for the image to settle. But it still didn’t look like her. Not the person she saw in the mirror with wild straw-coloured hair that never hung smooth, and a crooked grin where her teeth stuck out a little because she’d sucked her thumb as a baby. This shimmery water version of her looked strangely scary. She kicked one more stone. The largest she could find. The reflection in the water shattered into a thousand pieces.

(Extract from Secret Breakers Book One ‘The Power of Three.’) Show the full extract

Brodie Elizebeth Bray’s adventure starts when she receives a coded invitation through the post. Initially she’s scared. Who wouldn’t be? She’s no idea who the invitation is from or why they want to meet her! But Brodie loves a puzzle and she can’t stand for questions not to be answered. With her Granddad with her for safety, Brodie sets off for the secret meeting and then the mystery deepens. For Brodie has been chosen…to be part of a secret team set to work on an impossible quest…and despite her fear, this is another puzzle she can’t bear to leave unsolved.

Brodie’s mother died when she was quite young. She only just remembers her. She’s never known her father and has lived with her Granddad since her mother’s death. He’s not the most usual of Granddads. He rides a scooter after all and has only just given up wearing rollerblades! He used to be a code-breaker based at ‘Station X’ in the war. That’s probably where Brodie and her mother got their love of codes and puzzles from. Brodie’s other love is stories. She’s always reading. Stories give her power…and with such an impossible quest ahead of her, she’ll need all the power she can muster for the challenges ahead!

Interesting Truth:

Brodie wears two watches… one shows the time in London, the other the time in New York. Her other most treasured piece of jewellery is a locket given to her by her Granddad. It was with her mother’s things when she died.

Hunter Jenkins

Brodie turned and ploughed straight into the path of a boy riding a unicycle.…

…The crash wasn’t pretty.
Her case burst open, spilling an embarrassing load of clothing and books on to the ground. Brodie landed in a heap next to the boy, who’d fallen with an ominous crunch on top of the unicycle. As Brodie fought to catch her breath, chocolate toffees rained down on the pair of them.
‘Where the deep-fried Mars bar did you come from?’ His voice tailed away as he rose from the ground and rested the unicycle in his place. The wheel looked more than a little bent.
‘I don’t believe it,’ Brodie groaned through teeth clamped tight together.
‘Well, you better toasted sandwich believe it. Unless it’s raining sweets and knickers and you’ve decided to take a quick kip on the pavement, then we’ve really just crashed. It’s my nineteenth circuit and the path’s been totally clear every time.’
Brodie flicked a toffee from her shoulder and pulled herself up to sitting. ‘Well, it wasn’t clear this time!’
‘No. I see that now. Sorry! Really sorry.’ The boy towered over her, his face ringed by the sun as it broke through a cloud. He looked tall, although it was hard to tell from so far below him. He was perhaps her age, probably a year or two older, and his hair was fairly long, a fringe flopping in front of his eyes and a freckled nose blushed red with embarrassment. He swept his hair back from his face then offered his hand out towards her.

(Extract from Secret Breakers Book One ‘The Power of Three.’) Show the full extract

The first time Brodie meets Hunter, he’s riding a unicycle. Hunter doesn’t really like ‘usual’. If he can get around on a unicycle or pair of stilts, he will. The other thing he’ll do if he gets a chance…is eat! To say Hunter is a little obsessed with food is a bit of an understatement. (I loved coming up with all the comments he makes about food by the way, although it did make me feel a little peckish as I wrote!) Still, Hunter needs as much energy as possible to keep his brain working! Hunter’s brain power comes from his love of maths. He counts everything. All the time. He’s always solving maths based puzzles. And this makes him excellent with codes.

He’s an excellent friend too. Despite his rows with Tusia (and she is after all more than a little bossy) there isn’t anything he won’t do to help his friends. You’d want Hunter on your side if you were in trouble. And to be fair, for quite a lot of the time, the team are in quite a lot of trouble! Good job Hunter’s there then really!

Interesting Truth

Hunter doesn’t talk much about his parents. They lecture at Oxford University but he hardly ever mentions them.

Tusia Petulova

Seated on a rush mat spread on the floor in the centre of the room,…

…her legs crossed and her hands stretched up towards the ceiling, was Tusia. Her eyes were firmly closed and she was humming. From a CD player, balanced precariously in the corner, came the sound of songbirds and ocean waves and on the window sill a candle smelling strongly of lavender was burning.
Brodie coughed gently to announce her arrival.
Tusia didn’t move.
‘Hello again,’ Brodie whispered nervously.
Tusia opened one eye.
‘Looks like I’m your new room-mate.’
Tusia kept one eye firmly closed. ‘One moment,’ she said.
Brodie moved awkwardly from foot to foot as the sounds on the CD reached a crescendo and then died away. Tusia sighed deeply, opened her eyes and jumped to her feet.

(Extract from Secret Breakers Book One ‘The Power of Three.’) Show the full extract

Maybe it’s the fact that Tusia has two older brothers or maybe it’s because she’s been home schooled by her Russian parents, but whatever the reason, Tusia likes to be in charge! To be fair to her, she’s brave and has a fabulous sense of shape and space. She’s brilliant at art and chess, and she’s really good at working out what people think. None of this makes her very good at being tactful though. There’s really no easy way to put it….Tusia’s the bossy one!

Still, if you want someone to climb up a high building or follow a map, or look carefully at a visual code, then it’s Tusia you need. She doesn’t really ‘do’ scared. It’s not in her nature. And this willingness to take risks could lead Team Veritas into trouble. Let’s be grateful she’s not working alone then, for at the start of this adventure, the power comes from when the three of them….Tusia, Hunter and Brodie work together!

Interesting Truth

Tusia’s brothers work in Fiji. Her family is against air travel as it damages the environment, but her brothers are doing important work there!

Jon Stephen Smithies

Mr Smithies was a member of a secret organisation.…

…Mr Smithies was a member of a secret organisation.
It was such a secret organisation even Mr Smithies’ wife didn’t know anything about it. As far as Mrs Smithies was concerned, her husband worked at the tax office. She packed his sandwiches every day and watched him
leave for work every morning, waving him off from the kitchen window wearing her bright yellow Marigold gloves. Every evening she set Mr Smithies’ dinner on the table at six o’clock sharp and when they’d eaten they went into the lounge and watched Mrs Smithies’ favourite television programmes. They never talked about his work. Which was just as well as Mr Smithies wasn’t allowed to.

(Extract from Secret Breakers Book One ‘The Power of Three.’) Show the full extract

Mr Smithies is really a combination of all the best teachers I’ve ever had. (I even gave him the surname of my very favourite English teacher!) Smithies has secrecy flowing in his veins. He spent time as a child at Station X while his parents worked on the code of MS 408. Bletchley is where he met Alex Bray and Robbie Freidman. They grew up together and remained friends even when times got difficult. They were, perhaps, the original ‘power of three’ (although you might have to keep checking back about that detail)!

Smithies’ life has had its share of sadness. Alex Bray’s death shook him badly but that’s not the only loss in his life which has shaped the man he has become. Smithies needs solutions and that is why he is willing, despite the risks, to attempt to unlock the secrets of Voynich’s manuscript.

Interesting Truth

While all the others live at Station X, Smithies lives with his wife in the village. We may not know for a while why he can’t share the secret of MS 408 with her.

Tandi Tandari

Smithies could feel the panic rising in his chest.…

…It was usually a source of pride to him that his secretary was thorough in her work and meticulous in her quest for details. Now, it was particularly awkward.

(Extract from Secret Breakers Book One ‘The Power of Three.’) Show the full extract

Tandi has a complicated background. She was originally from Jamaica where she worked as a teacher. Her parents adopted several children so her family is large. Arriving in England she changed her career. She became Smithies’ secretary in The Black Chamber.

She’s committed to her boss and committed to a challenge. When Smithies chooses to leave The Black Chamber and take up a secret job at Station X, Miss Tandari is determined to go too. ‘Determined’ is a good word for Tandi. She’s really not to be messed with as Tusia finds to her cost when she doesn’t take Miss Tandari’s school lessons seriously.

Interesting Truth

Like me, Tandi loves her jewellery. Silver bracelets are some of her favourite possessions.

Oscar ‘Sicknote’ Ingham

Smithies peered through the frosted screen door at a man wearing a pair of pyjama trousers tied up with a garish yellow necktie.

All things considered the interview went quite badly. Oscar Ingham was enjoying his retirement, hated the thought of working with children and was appalled at the idea of being on the staff of a Code and Cipher School.
‘So why exactly did you answer the call?’ said Smithies, biting back the urge to also ask why a fully grown man had decided to arrive at a meeting he so obviously didn’t want to be at, and hadn’t even bothered to change out of his pyjamas.
Ingham reached into his pocket and took out a small container of tablets, emptied two into his hand and swallowed them before speaking. ‘MS 408,’ he said with an urgency that made Smithies’ heart quicken. ‘You said there’s a new lead.’

(Extract from Secret Breakers Book One ‘The Power of Three.’) Show the full extract

Creating ‘Sicknote’ was perhaps the best fun I had with characters because when I wrote about him I was able to include lots of really amazing details about some of the code-crackers who worked at Station X during the war. Sicknote is an ‘old school’ Secret Breaker. He’s totally eccentric and he wears pyjamas during the day. Tusia thinks this is because he is afraid to face the day…and it is partly that. It’s also because to Sicknote, things like appearance really don’t matter. He’s the true example of the philosophy, ‘it’s what inside that counts’ and it’s this fact that makes him such an excellent code-cracker. He reads codes, like he reads people, looking deeply and beyond the obvious.

Interesting Truth

Sicknotes insists on attaching his mug to the radiator via a chain. This is based on what one of the most famous real life code-crackers who worked at Station X during the war used to do. His name was Alan Turing. Making Sicknote do this, was my way of acknowledging that many code crackers were brilliant…but had very unusual habits!