Read This Book And Join The Treasure Hunt

The Clock Without A Face is a book of clues that takes the reader on a real-life treasure hunt across the U.S. Twelve emerald-studded numbers have been hidden in different areas of the country, and it's the reader's task to find the hidden jewels. Host Scott Simon speaks with authors Eli Horowitz and Mac Barnett, who came up with the idea, and reader Christina Wagner of Sun Prairie, Wis., who found the first hidden emerald.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

There's a mystery being uncovered across the country this summer - a nationwide hunt for 12 emerald-studded numbers. The clues to their whereabouts are contained in a new book called "The Clock Without A Face." The numbers are from a clock tower that are hidden in a safe on the 13th floor of an apartment building. Theyve been stolen. And if you closely examine the exquisitely detailed illustrations in this book from various floors and apartments, maybe you can find one of them.

We're joined now by two of the creators of the book. From our studios in New York is Mac Barnett.

Mr. Barnett, thanks very much for being with us.

Mr. MAC BARNETT (Co-author, "The Clock Without A Face"): Oh, thanks. It's great to be here.

SIMON: And KQED in San Francisco, we're joined by Eli Horowitz.

Mr. Horowitz, thank you for being with us.

Mr. ELI HOROWITZ (Co-author, "The Clock Without A Face"): It's a thrill.

SIMON: If we could get you gentlemen, maybe beginning with Mr. Barnett, tell us this story. Set it up for us, this - of this clock, the Emerald Khroniker.

Mr. BARNETT: Sure, absolutely. Well, the clock is, it's a priceless cursed clock with 12 numbers and each of them is emerald-studded and beautiful, but it's also the story of a robbery, kind of an ingenious robbery. The 12 numbers were scraped off the face of the clock and buried in holes across the United States of America.

SIMON: Now, these are, we should explain, 12 numbers that are from, to begin with, some of the great clocks around the world.

Mr. BARNETT: That's absolutely true. Yeah. The clock was constructed by a pirate, Friendly Jerome, a very famous pirate who went around to 12 different civilizations, took a number from each of those civilizations' finest clocks and constructed a kind of great stolen clock masterpiece. It was stolen from that pirate, stolen from the thieves, then the thieves were burgled, and there's been a long line of robberies ending with the most recent one.

SIMON: And Eli Horowitz, let me ask you to take over the story a bit, because this robbery now, when the book opens, has occurred at 23 Glyph Street? Is that how I pronounce it?

Mr. HOROWITZ: Exactly. It's in Ternky Tower, which is a 13-story building owned by Bevel Ternky, a sort of obnoxious importer/exporter, shady archeologist, kind of a fishy character in general. The Khroniker was stolen, or the numbers on the Emerald Khroniker were stripped off from his penthouse apartment on the 13th floor. And so everyone in the floors below, the 12 other inhabitants of the building, are possible victims, possible witnesses, possible suspects. And so only by interviewing them and studying their apartments can you figure out the possible whereabouts...

SIMON: And...

Mr. HOROWITZ: ...of the numbers and who committed the crime.

SIMON: And the man to interview them is the master crime sleuth, Detective Roy Dodge.

Mr. HOROWITZ: That's right, a Roy Dodge mystery.

SIMON: So youve got these 12 emerald-studded numbers that are hidden around the United States. You must've gone around the country to bury these things -oh, I'm sorry, criminal thieves did.

Mr. HOROWITZ: Thank you. Yeah, yeah. But having some insight into that process, yeah, that's true. It was - it was a bit of an undertaking to plan this out.

Mr. BARNETT: It's true. There's just not a lot of places left in this world where you can really just dig a hole without being hassled by people.

SIMON: I have to tell you, I would almost hope someone would come up to you and say, excuse me, what's going on here?

Mr. BARNETT: We did. We came up with some cover stories about taking soil samples for agricultural departments in various universities. So - and that's out there for treasure hunters too. Just in case you get approached out there in the field, we recommend that.

Mr. HOROWITZ: We found that it's all in the attitude. If you believe youre innocent, you are innocent. You have to carry yourself with a certain dignity.

Mr. BARNETT: I think that's our specialty, carrying yourself with a special dignity.

SIMON: I noticed that immediately.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Well, they are beautiful illustrations in the book, that accompanied by a single page - on the left the story, on the right the illustration, which invite you in to apartments to look at various clues. We actually have somebody who found a number who is going us now - from Wisconsin Public Radio in Madison.

Christina Wagner, are you there?

Ms. CHRISTINA WAGNER: I am.

SIMON: What led to you finding the numbers?

Ms. WAGNER: My dad, like, told me about the book and I kind of was like sketchy about it. Like numbers, really? So I read through the book and it just caught my attention, and I just really wanted to start figuring out the clues, so....

SIMON: You found the number eight.

Ms. WAGNER: Yes.

SIMON: What tipped you off?

Ms. WAGNER: Clues on the fifth floor, actually.

SIMON: Oh, this is Vera Mazel and Josie Grey.

Ms. WAGNER: Yup.

SIMON: It begins: The door to five was wide open and the living room was almost empty. The apartment seemed to be vacant but then I noticed a light coming from the kitchen. Hello, said Dodge, anyone home? Oh, goodness gracious, said a sweet old voice. We didnt hear you knock. We (unintelligible). We're in the kitchen, said another voice, equally sweet and just as old. I followed Dodge toward the light.

So what led you there?

Ms. WAGNER: Well, I dont know, I just liked the idea that they were the, like, puzzle solvers in the book and the book was focused around solving these puzzles, so I found clues that led me to believe that it was in Illinois. And since that's our neighbor state, I was like, well, Ill put focus on this page.

SIMON: So you live there in southern Wisconsin. Whereabouts? I know youve joined us from Madison today.

Ms. WAGNER: Right outside of Madison in Sun Prairie.

SIMON: And where did you have to get to in Illinois?

Ms. WAGNER: South Beloit. It's just a couple miles over the border.

SIMON: Over the border. You past the Mars Cheese Castle...

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: ...and, you know, you buy a wedge of cheddar in the shape of Bucky Badger and then you and then you head on down over the Illinois border, right?

Ms. WAGNER: Yup.

Mr. HOROWITZ: Classic trip. That's how we imagined it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. WAGNER: Cheese.

SIMON: What's it look like - this number eight?

Ms. WAGNER: The eight is on a, like, metal plate and it's got spikes coming out the side, and then there's just two little emeralds on opposite sides of the eight.

SIMON: Eli Horowitz and Mac Barnett, are they real emeralds?

Mr. HOROWITZ: We assure you, these are real emeralds buried in real dirt.

SIMON: Well, the real dirt part I can accept.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BARNETT: That would be easier to find than the real emerald. (Unintelligible)

Mr. HOROWITZ: (Unintelligible) both. You can't have one without the other. I mean that's something that's really exciting too, is, I think, that there can be jewels stolen in a fictional story that are then discovered in real life.

SIMON: But this being noted, have any other numbers been found?

Mr. BARNETT: Right now nine of the 12 numbers have been found. But there's still three out there, including that 12.

SIMON: Yeah. Oh my word.

Mr. HOROWITZ: Twelve is really kind of the keystone of the whole clock, with as many emeralds as all the other ones combined, so that's really the ultimate prize.

SIMON: So what happens when all 12 numbers are found?

Mr. BARNETT: We kind of put out an unfinished story, and it was up to people with shovels to go out there and write the ending for us. So I think we're really excited to see how this ends. It's been really a lot of fun to watch this develop.

Mr. HOROWITZ: And we do think everyone who gets this book and reads this book is taking part in finishing the story in that way, whether they dig or just offer theories or are totally misguided. And its such a weird mix of people -puzzle people and kids and families and whodunit fans and interior design fans, architecture fans. It's this weird conglomeration.

I do dream of once all 12 are found, of them sort of uniting in a single room, being placed back on a clock, and then, you know, something will happen. Something will glow or faces will melt or something like that.

SIMON: Christina? Christina Wagner?

Ms. WAGNER: Yeah?

SIMON: Keep searching, okay?

Ms. WAGNER: Oh, we plan on it.

SIMON: And congratulations.

Ms. WAGNER: Thank you.

SIMON: All kinds of luck to you.

SIMON: And Eli Horowitz and Mac Barnett, thanks very much for being with us.

Mr. HOROWITZ: Oh, thank you.

Mr. BARNETT: Thanks for having us.

Mr. HOROWITZ: It's been a lot of fun.

SIMON: Eli Horowitz and Mac Barnett, they're the co-authors of "The Clock Without a Face." They joined us respectively from San Francisco and our New York bureau. And super sleuth 18-year-old Christina Wagner joined us from Wisconsin Public Radio.

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

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