The Next Chapter

Nick Bantock crafts a puzzle for readers in Dubious Documents

The bestselling author of the Griffin & Sabine series has created a book that contains 16 envelopes with clues for readers to decode.
Dubious Documents is a puzzle in book form by artist Nick Bantock. (Chronicle Books/Geoff Smith)

Nick Bantock is the bestselling author of the Griffin & Sabine series, which spent two years on the New York Times bestseller list. His books are art objects in and of themselves, with his own paintings and collages designed to enhance the story. His new book, Dubious Documents, is a puzzle that the reader must decode using the 16 envelopes inside the covers.

Below, Bantock talks about creating this new unique book.

A good puzzle

"I've always loved puzzles. I'm a card player. A problem solver. Those things wrap themselves around my mind. When you are actually creating a puzzle yourself, you have to do everything from back-to-front. Particularly in the case of Dubious Documents, which is a partly visual book and partly text. You've got a combination of creating images, creating the words, but at the same time working backwards from the solution.

"In the case of the Dubious Documents book, you have a series of 16 envelopes and in each of the envelopes there's a double-sided document. Using the clues, you have to work your way through the imagery and come up with the fragments of the solution which, when you have them all, you have to reshuffle them to create a sentence. The elements really range massively from an early French fiscal document through to drawings I did, words, numbers, everything picked from everywhere and shuffled in."

The power of art

"The power of the book for me is in the visuals. When you open the book and you start to reveal the envelopes and documents inside, that's when I think the book really flowers. You fall into the imagery, you get lost in it. It's like Alice going down the rabbit hole. You become lost in time and this small world of trap and confusion and then hopefully answer and the place that you get from having out-tricked the white rabbit."

Nick Bantock's comments have been edited for length and clarity.