Hundreds of sleuths from around the world are competing to be the one that finally solves a long-standing puzzle set in a treasure hunt book by a Devizes artist - and they could win a prize worth £15,000.

For two years literary armchair detectives from the USA, Europe and across the UK have been vying to crack the clues contained in Joanna May’s illustrated book The Hare On The Moon, because whoever works out the mystery will walk away with an artwork worth a small fortune.

And with just three weeks to go until the deadline on November 21 efforts are expected to intensify, as problem-solvers from university professors to teenage computer wizards try to find the treasure.

Joanna, an acclaimed illustrator whose work has been collected by chartered banks and celebrities including master chef Raymond Blanc and actress Rula Lenska, produced the book in the brain-teaser style of the famous 1970’s treasure hunt book Masquerade.

The Hare On The Moon takes readers on a journey through ancient Wiltshire landscapes.

“Together with the help of the man on the moon, readers unlock the star signs to find treasures which help to release the hare,” said Joanna at her gallery in Northgate Street, Devizes.

“The pages are interspersed with beautiful illustrations helping to guide you. Your mission is to find the clues, identify the required words and find the map coordinates to locate the sacred site. Only me and my husband David know where the important site is.”

The magical book, of which there is also a signed and limited edition, has excited entries from more than 500 people who believe that they have cracked the code.

But nobody has managed yet to reveal the sacred site and win themselves the prize of Three Hares On A Golden Moon, a Joanna May original painting estimated to be worth at least £15,000 to collectors.

To complement the treasure hunt, Joanna has now published The Hare On The Moon Map, detailing a scenic route to twelve of the most iconic sites around Wiltshire, and she is fascinated to see whether the map and the book together will inspire some bright spark to announce, “Eureka! I’ve got it.”

“Nobody has solved it yet but there are some serious treasure hunters on the case; one who very nearly solved the Masquerade puzzle and another who solved another treasure hunt after ten years of trying,” said Joanna, who initially set the 21.11.21 deadline for the hunt when the book was published in 2019 because that is when the November moon, known as a Beaver Moon, will be near to at its fullest.

But if there is no winner by that date, the hunt will go on, in perpetuity, until the treasure hunt is solved.