14 Books With Keys on the Cover

I’m always influenced by a well-designed book cover or dust jacket, and a book with a key on the cover almost always grabs my attention. Once I started taking notice of the symbolism of keys in book cover design, it didn’t take me long before I started making a list (because I love a good list).

First for the ones I’ve read:The Observations by Jane Harris

1. The Observations by Jane Harris
2. 77 Shadow Street by Dean Koontz
3. The Servants by Michael Marshall Smith
4. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe
5. The Collector by John Fowles

It should be said that for these 5 books, the covers were much better than the novels. I gave The Collector a 4 star rating, 3 star ratings to two of the books in the list and one 2 star and one 1 star rating to the rest. Now that I consider these ratings alongside their appealing cover designs, perhaps there’s some truth to not judging a book by it’s cover. Just because a book speaks to you, doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy it.

There’s a plethora of keys decorating all kinds of book covers out there, some old and some new, some enticing, and some less so. One of my favourite classics cover of all time is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, number 13 in the list and the cover of The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon calls out to me whenever I see it. I can almost hear those keys jangling in the snow.

Jane EyreThe Scottish Prisoner Diana Gabaldon


6. The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon
7. Secret Obsession by Kimberla Lawson Roby
8. Altar of Bones by Philip Carter
9. Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen
10. Veil of Lies by Jeri WestersonDays of Abandonement Elena Ferrante

Elena Ferrante is popular this year, and the keys on the front cover (pictured right) speak to me about unlocking the mystery of the author’s identity almost as much as her novel The Days of Abandonment.

11. Magician by Raymond E. Feist
12. The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante
13. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
14. The Inquisitor’s Key by Jefferson Bass

Can you recommend any of these? Have I missed any of your favourite covers in this list?
Are you influenced by cover art? Let me know in the comments.

Mugshot or marriage material?

Recognise this rather guilty-looking face?

Srs Rochester is srs.

If you’re a fan of Gothic romances or if you’ve studied the Brontë sisters’ novels, you probably should. Let’s see if some text can jog your memory a little.

“I knew my traveller with his broad and jetty eyebrows; his square forehead, made squarer by the horizontal sweep of his black hair.  I recognised his decisive nose, more remarkable for character than beauty; his full nostrils, denoting, I thought, choler; his grim mouth, chin, and jaw—yes, all three were very grim, and no mistake.  His shape, now divested of cloak, I perceived harmonised in squareness with his physiognomy… My master’s colourless, olive face, square, massive brow, broad and jetty eyebrows, deep eyes, strong features, firm, grim mouth.”

That shifty miscreant is none other than Charlotte Bronte’s stern-but-deliciously-squishy Mr Rochester. And the reason that he looks so guilty is that he – along with several other fictional characters – have been recreated from the author’s descriptions via a method normally reserved for society’s less law-abiding people – law enforcement composite sketch software.

According to it’s creator, writer and auther Brian Joseph Davis, the project “is a combination of literary criticism — which I know well — and forensics — of which I’m an utter amateur.” He uses the forensic software program Faces ID to visualise some of literatures’ most famous characters.  This program gives users about 10,000 individual facial features to choose from and Davis used the authors’ own descriptions of their characters as guidelines for his selections. The results – strange, enlightening and occasionally creepy as they are – often throw an intriguing new light on an old story or character when he posts them on his project’s Tumblr site, The Composites.

Characters done so far include Aomame from Murakami’s 1Q84, Judge Holden from Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, and Nabokov’s Humbert Humbert from Lolita. Davis is happy to take requests but warns you need to know if there’s enough of a physical description before you send them in. No amount of clamouring from readers will enable him to achieve the impossible and craft a likeness from thin air when the author hasn’t provided the needed descriptive text, he points out.

“Unfortunately, there will be no Holden Caulfield. At a glance, the entirety of his self description amounts to “I have a crew cut.”

I have been debating sending in some of my own literary crushes. He may already covered Mr Rochester but there is always Wesley from the Princess Bride, Jaime Lannister from George R R Martin’s Game of Thrones series and (lest you think I am all about the men of days gone by) my one and only Twue-est Wuv – the Batman.

Yes, Batman. He’s tortured and complex AND he has a bat-belt and remote-controlled car. What more do you want? Who else would you rather see described? And would you take a chance with this version of Mr Rochester, or are you holding out for one of the other faces that have played him over the years? (Michael Fassbender, anyone?)