The F.I.G. Mysteries
By Barbara Casey
Dara Roux, abandoned when she was 7 years old by her mother. Exceptionally gifted in foreign languages. Orphan.
Mackenzie Yarborough, no record of her parents or where she was born. Exceptionally gifted in math and problem-solving. Orphan.
Jennifer Torres, both parents killed in an automobile accident when she was 16. Exceptionally gifted in music and art. Orphan.
Three young girls, each an orphan, each from a different background and part of the country, and each with an intelligence quotient in the genius range, wind up at the same orphanage – Wood Rose Orphanage and Academy for Young Women. Because they are so different, and so brilliant, and so prone to “expressing their creativity” in troublesome and sometimes destructive ways, the faculty at Wood Rose are intimidated, the staff are terrorized, and the other students/orphans consider these three females of intellectual genius—F.I.G.s—to be weird.
As a last result and in desperation, Headmaster Harcourt hires a personable young woman with outstanding educational credentials to keep the F.I.G.s on a short leash their last year at Wood Rose until they graduate. To keep them out of trouble, Carolina Lovel, who is more like a big sister to the F.I.G.s than their mentor, takes “her girls” to a small village in Italy for the stated purpose of doing research on the most mysterious document in the world that was first discovered in a monastery there in the 15th century—the Voynich Manuscript. The real reason behind her interest in this document, which she reveals to the F.I.G.s, is because she learned on her 18th birthday that she was adopted. As part of the terms of the adoption, she was given a small wooden box at that time that contained among other things what appeared to be a letter written in an unknown language. Remarkably, it closely resembles the writing of the most mysterious document in the world, the Voynich Manuscript.
So begins an incredible journey, more dangerous and terrifying—and more revealing than they ever could have imagined. When they return to the Wood Rose campus, inspired by Carolina’s determination, fortified by the unbreakable bond that unites them, and relying on their individual unique genius and special talents, Dara Roux, Mackenzie Yarborough, and Jennifer Torres, the three F.I.G.s, embark on their own journeys, giving each other unconditional support, as they search for the answer to the one question that haunts and torments them: Why am I an orphan?
Book 1: The Cadence of Gypsies
Three high-spirited 17 year olds, with intelligent quotients in the genius range, accompany their teacher and mentor, Carolina Lovel, to Frascati, Italy, a few weeks before they are to graduate from Wood Rose Orphanage and Academy for Young Women. Carolina's purpose in planning the trip is to remove her gifted, creative students from the Wood Rose campus located in Raleigh, North Carolina, so they can't cause any more problems ("expressions of creativity") for the headmaster, faculty, and other students – which they do with regularity. Carolina also wants to visit the Villa Mondragone where the Voynich Manuscript, the most mysterious document in the world, was first discovered and search how it is related to a paper written in the same script she received on her 18th birthday when she was told that she was adopted – a search that will fill in all of the missing pieces of her past and help each of her students to begin their own journeys to find the answers to why they were orphans.
Book 2: The Wish Rider
Seventeen-year-old Dara Roux and her two best friends, Mackenzie Yarborough and Jennifer Torres, the three collectively referred to as the FIGs (Females of Intellectual Genius) because each has an intelligence quotient in the genius range, have just returned from Frascati, Italy. It was there that their much loved teacher and mentor, Carolina Lovel, discovered that her birth parents were gypsies, and that she had a connection to the Voynich Manuscript, the most mysterious document in the world. Now, with graduation from Wood Rose Orphanage and Academy for Young Women behind them, Dara asks Mackenzie, Jennifer, and Carolina to help her locate her birth mother when she learns that she might be living in New York City. All the young women have to work with are five addresses, and when Mackenzie prepares a grid showing the location of all five addresses, four of the locations form a square with the fifth in the middle—which is also Grand Central Terminal. Relying on Dara’s gift for speaking and understanding foreign languages, the black and white images that stir musical cadences in Jennifer’s mind, and Mackenzie’s mathematical calculations that normally provide numerical solutions and answers to life’s most difficult questions but now keep showing the number “61”, the determined young women tirelessly go from one address to another in search of Dara’s mother. Their determination turns to desperation, however, and they ignore caution and the dissonant chords Jennifer frantically scribbles on her eight-stave musical paper as they pursue one final address—the one located in the middle of Mackenzie’s grid. Encountering a dark hidden society and sub culture more dangerous and terrifying than they could have imagined, it is there that Dara learns why she was abandoned as a seven year old in a candy store all those years ago.
Book 3: The Clock Flower
The three FIGs—Females of Intellectual Genius—as they are called, have graduated from Wood Rose Orphanage and Academy for Young Women after returning from New York City where Dara learned why her mother abandoned her all those years ago, and they are now attending universities where they can further their special talents. This means they will be separated from each other and from Carolina, their much-loved mentor and teacher who is “one of them,” for the first time in their young lives. They vow to try living apart for one semester, in the so-called real world that doesn’t include the orphanage; but if things don’t work out, they will come up with another plan—a plan where they can be together once again. Dara is invited through Yale University to take part in an exciting archeological project in China. Jennifer, once again visualizing black and white images and the unusual sounds of another cadence that seem to be connected to Mackenzie, is engrossed in creating her next symphony at Juilliard. Mackenzie, because of her genius at problem-solving, is personally chosen by a US Senator to get involved in a mysterious, secret research project involving immortality that is being conducted in a small village in China—not too far from where Dara is involved with the archeological site. Once there, however, she finds herself facing a terrifying death from the blood-dripping teeth of an ancient evil dragon. Her best friends, the FIGs and Carolina, rely on their own unique genius and special talents to save her as she discovers the truth of her birth parents.
Book 4: The Nightjar's Promise
Jennifer Torres, one of the three FIGs (Females of Intellectual Genius) who is a genius in both music and art, is the last to leave the closed rehearsal for her upcoming performance over Thanksgiving break at Carnegie Hall when she hears something in the darkened Hall. Recognizing the tilt of the woman’s head and the slight limp of the man as they hurry out an exit door, she realizes it is her parents who were supposedly killed in a terrible car accident when she was 15 years old. Devastated and feeling betrayed, she sends a text to Carolina and the other two FIGs—THURGOOD. It is the code word they all agreed to use if ever one of them got into trouble or something happened that was too difficult to handle. They would all meet back at Carolina’s bungalow at Wood Rose Orphanage and Academy for Young Women to figure it out.
As soon as they receive the text, because of their genius, Dara starts thinking of words in ancient Hebrew, German, and Yiddish, while Mackenzie’s visions of unique math formulae keep bringing up the date October 11, 1943. That is the date during World War II when the Nazis—the Kunstschutz—looted the paintings of targeted wealthy Jewish families and hid them away under Hitler’s orders. And as Carolina waits for the FIGs to return to Wood Rose, she hears warnings from Lyuba, her gypsy mother, to watch for the nightjar, the ancient name for the whip-poor-will.
As they search for “The Nightjar’s Promise” and the truth surrounding it, Carolina and the FIGs come face to face with evil that threatens to destroy not only their genius, but their very lives.