It’s time to solve the murder of the century…
Forty years ago, Steven Smith found a copy of a famous children’s book by disgraced author Edith Twyford, its margins full of strange markings and annotations. Wanting to know more, he took it to his English teacher Miss Iles, not realising the chain of events that he was setting in motion. Miss Iles became convinced that the book was the key to solving a puzzle, and that a message in secret code ran through all Twyford’s novels. Then Miss Iles disappeared on a class field trip, and Steven has no memory of what happened to her.
Now, out of prison after a long stretch, Steven decides to investigate the mystery that has haunted him for decades. Was Miss Iles murdered? Was she deluded? Or was she right about the code? And is it still in use today?
Desperate to recover his memories and find out what really happened to Miss Iles, Steven revisits the people and places of his childhood. But it soon becomes clear that Edith Twyford wasn’t just a writer of forgotten children’s stories. The Twyford Code has great power, and he isn’t the only one trying to solve it…
*** FROM THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF THE APPEAL ***
‘The queen of tricksy crime. Every page is a joy’ – SUNDAY TIMES
‘Even better than The Appeal‘ – GUARDIAN
‘f[EXPLICIT] brilliant – a mind-bending, heartwarming mystery that is not to be missed’ – OBSERVER
‘Wonderful. An ingenious and wholly satisfying final reveal’ – BRIAN MCGILLOWAY
‘It totally foxed me. So clever and totally brilliant’ – LISA HALL
Janice Hallett’s debut, The Appeal, was one of my favourite reads of last year so I had huge expectations for a similar experience with The Twyford Code.
To put it bluntly: was it as good? It abso-bloody-lutely was!
Like its predecessor, the novel is original in its format – The Appeal was a compilation of emails, texts, legal docs and the like – The Twyford Code is told through the “rough” transcription of audio files that the main character, Steven, has recorded on his son’s phone. The outcome is both funny (Steven hasn’t got a clue how his phone works, so there are plenty of “accidental” interludes) and increasingly addictive. Just as Steven becomes obsessed with solving the mystery, so does the reader (Well, this one anyway).
Steven has never forgotten about the book he found on a bus and took into his remedial English class, whereupon his teacher told him the book had been banned reading in schools for years. When she holds onto it and then later takes the class on a trip to the author’s home, his memory is clouded but the intrigue about it never wanes especially when the teacher doesn’t return with the class from that trip.
Now, decades later, he wants to catch up with those schoolfriends and get to the bottom of what happened to Miss Iles. The audio files map his thought process and his encounters with his former schoolmates, revealing he is not the only one fascinated by The Twyford Code.
So, who was Edith Twyford and why was she inserting coded messages in her children’s stories? Aided by librarian, Lucy, Steven’s fixation takes him into underground tunnels, encounters with other conspiracy theorists/ treasure hunters (??? you decide !!!) looking for a “golden hair”, and shady characters who seem to be following his every move.
The Twyford Code is the epitome of the “riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma” and demands your attention. The clues are there for the solving, the dodgy transcription errors quickly become second nature as your brain adapts to the mistakes, and the mystery becomes a challenge to be solved. At times, it’s overwhelmingly complex, and I felt the need to read on stopped me from taking in all of the clues, but that’s hardly a criticism. Occasionally, Steven’s audio recording stray from the mystery to reflect on events of his own life, all of which set him up as the most unreliable of narrators … yet, for the most part, it all somehow works.
Overall, The Twyford Code proved to be another excellent mystery with a balance of humour and humanity sprinkled throughout. If you can bear to have your mind messed up on several levels, then you should dive right in. It’s clever, captivating, confusing, and occasionally charming. I cannot wait to see what this author comes up with next.