England between the wars.
Britain is losing the espionage game. The old codes aren't working. They need something new.
"The man in the dark suit" has called a meeting with several of the Dons from Oxford to see if some solution can be found
The reason he kept talking was that the dons’ questions were teasing more information out of him. Their questions were dexterous and to the point, filled with implication and possibility. It was, in a perverse way, like being a specimen examined by some very adroit scientists of words.
That was the way he thought of it later – they picked apart his words with careful precision, as if words in themselves actually mattered.