The Secret of the Writer's Ruse

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#833: “The Secret of the Writer's Ruse”
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Original Release Date
January 3, 2018
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64: Under the Surface
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Psalm 90:8

8You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.

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The Secret of the Writer's Ruse

“The Secret of the Writer's Ruse” is episode #833 of the Adventures in Odyssey audio series. It was written by Bob Hoose and Phil Lollar (among others), was originally released in the Adventures in Odyssey Club on January 3, 2018, and originally aired on April 14, 2018.


After a long dry spell of cases, the Jones and Parker Detective Agency is back with what could be their biggest yet: an investigation into a manuscript that could be famous writer Mary Malloway’s long-lost final mystery.


Emily runs into Morrie at the library and both they drop their books. While Matthew and Emily help pick them up, Morrie says he's doing research for a big school report on the Nazi Enigma machine. Emily shows him her book, a mystery novel by Mary Malloway. Morrie picks a book off the floor and says it must be Emily's, since it's also written by Malloway. Emily and Matthew inspect the book, Writer's Ruse, by Mary Malloway, with the author's picture on the back. "Isn't it nice when you come across something new by a favorite author, espec—" Morrie starts to say, but Emily interrupts, claiming that the book "could be the literary find of the century."

Inside Emily finds a handwritten inscription, which Matthew says should be checked for authenticity: “My Darling Magpie, Ann West and her missing eleven days will soon and sure lead you out of the maze. If you need help, there’s more to come from the pictures with meaning behind them. Love always, Auntie Mary, June 1975” (when Malloway died).

Emily identifies Ann West as a British spy novel author. She also notes that although the inscription reads “Auntie Mary,” Mary was an only child. The book looks like a self-published manuscript, likely the only copy and thus more valuable. Emily finds the code "DBFE23" on the book, a library donor code. She and Matthew split up while Morrie declines to help: Emily heads to Whit's End to ask Whit about the code and Matthew starts research on Ann West.

At Whit's End, Whit talks to Emily about the nature of secrets while his computer loads. After it does, Emily attempts to check the book number, only to find it replaced with Encoding the Enigma, Morrie's book. Whit suggests that Morrie just got the two confused. Emily remembers the donor code, and Whit says it means "Donor Base - Fergus Estate - Lot 23."

Matthew finds Eugene at the library, who tells him about Ann West. Eugene says that her novels were so detailed that some suspected that she was a spy herself. Her "missing eleven days" were a time period in December 1955 when Ann completely disappeared, and she claimed to have no memory of where she was.

Emily returns and she and Matthew find the Fergus Estate file in the library's records. The Fergus Estate had donated several books, but Lot 23 was donated on June 30, 1975, a few days after Malloway's death. Dr. Nancy Fergus donated a large sum of money as well. Emily and Matthew decide to check back issues of the Odyssey Times.

While Matthew heads to the Times, Emily looks all over Odyssey for Morrie, to ask about the manuscript, but can't find him. She meets up with Matthew, who has found a picture of Nancy Fergus with Mary Malloway and Nancy's daughter Maggie. The picture was dated December 5, 1955, during Ann West's missing eleven days! Also, Matthew notes that Maggie Fergus could be "My Darling Magpie," from the inscription. He says that when Maggie was married (with the surname Fredericks) she taught at Odyssey Middle School with Whit. Whit gives Matthew and Emily the address where Maggie lives.

At her house, Maggie Fredericks explains that she always called Mary "Auntie Mary" because she was close to the Fergus family. Maggie then shows the pair of detectives a photo album titled "Pictures with Meaning Behind Them," from Mary herself. "So, what's behind them?" Emily asks. With permission, she removes the pictures and finds writing on the back, which Maggie asks her and Matthew to read. The pictures tell the story of how Maggie was actually adopted by a British spy named Charlotte who found Maggie, the daughter of a spy "from the other side" who had died, in a hotel room. Charlotte changed her name to Nancy Fergus and moved to Odyssey, with the assistance of Ann West, over an eleven-day period. How does Mary Malloway know this? She was both herself and Ann West.

"Wasn't that a satisfying mystery?" Maggie observes. Emily and Matthew call Maggie's bluff by pointing out that if Mary-slash-Ann was trying to be secretive, why would she stop for a newspaper picture? And no one noticed that Mary and Ann look exactly the same? And Mary took pictures during her trip to America even though she was in hiding? And, after learning that she was adopted by a spy and her best friend covered up her heritage, the first thing Maggie says is "Wasn't that a satisfying mystery?"

Suddenly, Whit, Eugene, and Morrie emerge from the shadows. Morrie explains that the four of them (including Eden Hope, aka "Maggie") were following his plan to encourage Emily and Matthew during a dry spell for their detective agency. Eugene planted the info at the library, Dale Jacobs allowed the Times records to be forged, and Connie took the fake photographs. The two detectives thank him for setting it all up. Then Morrie hands over the (fake) Writer's Ruse manuscript. In narration, Matthew says "No one can uncover secrets like Jones & Parker!"

"I have to admit," Morrie types, "they were good. It was a risk to show them a page of my playbook like that, but … it was worth it to see if they could keep up with me. And, of course, they couldn't." He chuckles. "No one could. I shouldn't have expected that anyone would be that good. Not in this town…"

"Dear Lord," Whit prays, "there was something about that moment that wasn't … right. Morrie said he wanted to make Emily and Matthew ‘feel better’." He exhales. "There's more to it than that. There's a secret here that … feels unsettling. You're the revealer of secrets, Lord. If there's something more to this, something I need to do, please … make it clear to me."

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Dale Jacobs Morrie Rydell
Connie Kendall Morrie Rydell


  • Eugene says the library newspaper archives date back to 1987, the year in which Adventures in Odyssey debuted.
  • This episode has one of only a few times in the series that Whit's spiritual intuition has been activated to the point that Whit noticed Morrie wasn't being honest.
  • This episode makes it clear that Morrie has some long term agenda in Odyssey.
  • Mary Malloway has many similarities to British mystery author Agatha Christie.
  • Christie used the pen name Mary Westmacott and her second husband's surname was Mallowan, hence forming "Mary Malloway".
  • Christie died in the mid-1970's.
  • At one point, Christie disappeared for a period of eleven days, claiming to have no memory of where she was afterward.
  • Malloway's book Scandal on the Trans-Siberian is a reference to Christie's book Murder on the Orient Express.


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