Untitled Bee Book by Kit Williams

Bee Book cover

Untitled Bee Book by Kit Williams

A few years after Masquerade‘s hunt for the golden hare came to an end, Kit Williams produced a new puzzle book featuring a golden bee.

Having learned from experience that inciting people to dig up England wasn’t a wise move, this time the puzzle was a postal competition: work out the title of the book, represent it artistically and mail it in within the 1 year time limit. Kit chose his favourite solution and awarded the prize of a mahogany box containing a titled copy of the book on a special edition of the Terry Wogan show in 1985.

As with Masquerade, the art is gorgeous. Rather than straight paintings, Kit Williams shows off his marquetry skills with beautiful and imaginative frames, set with gems and carvings. Sometimes, as on the cover, the painting itself is only a tiny part of the whole work. Everything is beautifully photographed to show off how 3-dimensional each piece is.

The story is whimsical and timeless, though lacking the quest narrative impact of Masquerade.

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The Merlin Mystery

Merlin Mystery cover

The Merlin Mystery

The Merlin Mystery by Jonathan Gunson and Marten Coombe was published in 1998.

This was the second armchair treasure hunt book I discovered after Masquerade. Unlike Masquerade, I found it when it was new, just as the three year countdown for solving it started ticking. Of course I bought a copy straight away.

Certainly the book sets its stall pretty plainly, with its gold enlaced cover and its promise of a pot of gold and a garish gold wand for a clever winner. Rather than a buried treasure, the wand was safely locked away in the vaults of the Bank of England and solutions were to be mailed in.

Its astrological and chemical symbols immediately appealed to me and there was some fun to be had spotting patterns and linked figures.

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Masquerade by Kit Williams

Masquerade cover

Masquerade by Kit Williams

“Armchair Treasure Hunts” first came to my attention through the amazing book Masquerade by Kit Williams

Published in 1979, it is a glorious work of art filled with visual and textual puzzles and a sweet fairytale story of unrequited love. The unique (at the time) selling point was that the book contained clues to a golden hare that had been buried somewhere in England. A real-life treasure hunt!

I was maybe 10 years old when I stumbled across my grandfather’s copy and it stuck with me for years afterwards. I used the final words of the book as my email footer all through the late 1990s: “The best of men is only a man at best, and a hare, as everyone knows, is only a hare.”

But I never managed to solve the puzzle and never had the faintest idea where the golden hare might have been buried. It wasn’t until 2005 that I thought to look up the solution on the Internet.

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