As a lover of puzzles, I was fascinated recently to watch The Man Behind Masquerade, the story of Kit Williams and his best-selling treasure hunt book, Masquerade. It is 30 years since the book was published, and as I watched the programme, I found myself wondering why I had never got round to reading it. But then, there are so many marvellous books that I haven’t read that even to contemplate them is a bit daunting….
Williams is a gifted artist. He is also a very practical man, with a highly ingenious turn of mind – should he ever turn to detective fiction, it would be fascinating. His work includes, for instance, the Wishing Fish Clock in the Regent Arcade shopping mall in Cheltenham (which I first discovered, incidentally, during a lovely weekend spent at a CWA conference in that elegant spa town some years ago.)
Masquerade is a beautiful book, with complex clues pointing to the place where Williams, with Bamber Gascoigne as a witness, buried the golden hare that Williams designed and made Countless people tried and failed to unravel the mystery, but the solution was attended by intrigue. The winner was later discovered to have relied on information as to the hare’s whereabouts supplied by someone who knew Williams, rather than pure deduction. The hare was sold at auction and is now owned by an unnamed family in a distant land. However, the programme saw Williams reunited with the hare for the first time – an emotional moment for this remarkable man.
This all set me wondering how many detective novels have featured treasure hunts. I can’t think of many off-hand, although Christie’s Dead Man’s Folly makes clever use of a ‘murder hunt’.