The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett @JaniceHallett @ViperBooks

Source: Review copy
Publication: 13 January 2022 from Viper Books
PP: 384
ISBN-13: 978-1788165310

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….

The Twyford Code is the perfect book to kick-start the year. Our protagonist is Steven Smith, ex-con, dyslexic, father to Colin, though they are estranged. Smith has recently been released from jail and has vanished without trace. The only information we have from him is in the form of audio recordings on Colin’s old iPhone 4. The transcription software isn’t perfect though, so you have to pay close attention….

Now Colin, Smith’s son – an academic mathematician, has been sent the audio files by the police in the hope that he can make some sense of them. It appears that Smith has been on a journey of recollection, determined to resolve the mystery of what happened to his old Primary School teacher, Miss Isles some 40 years ago.

By all accounts a dedicated and empathetic young woman, Miss Isles taught a remedial English class in which Smith was a pupil. The interest of the class was engaged by a book that Smith found on a bus and brought in to Miss Isles, who read it to the class.

Written by Edith Twyford, this book is akin to the Famous Five novels of Edith Blyton, and like that author, Twyford has since fallen out of favour, cancelled through a casual racism tinged with xenophobia that runs through the books.

Reading this is a bit like following a true crime podcast. What you get is a mixture of past and present as Smith reconnects with old classmates and as he investigates, we learn a great deal about his own background and upbringing and the criminal endeavours that led to his stretch in prison.

The Twyford Code is both a fabulous secret squirrel mystery with hidden codes, mysterious symbols and espionage with a second world war conspiracy to steal treasure.

You’ll follow the clues as Smith sets out his journey, aided by the local librarian and various of his classmates, remembering always to keep his probation officer clued in to what he’s up to. He is nothing if not a model ex-con.

Janice Hallett leads her readers on a fabulous, merry jaunt through the English countryside, with hidden tunnels, visits to old houses and some serious sleuthing to solve the puzzles. But what is it all in aid of? With references to other puzzles in other books, the reader begins to wonder just how reliable Colin’s narration is? For sure someone is not telling the whole story…

The Twyford Code is great fun. Full of humour, fast on its feet and keen to exploit every possible misdirection and misinterpretation, it contains both a terrific mystery and a serious message.

Verdict: The Twyford Code is an exciting and innovative book for bibliophiles with a sense of fun. It is a terrific mystery; a great exercise in misdirection and a novel that both delights and satisfies. A great start to the New Year!                         Waterstones                           Hive Stores

Janice Hallett studied English at UCL, and spent several years as a magazine editor, winning two awards for journalism. After gaining an MA in Screenwriting at Royal Holloway, she co-wrote the feature film Retreat. The Appeal is inspired by her lifelong interest in amateur dramatics. Her second novel, The Twyford Code, is published by Viper this month. When not indulging her passion for global adventure travel, she is based in West London.

Published by marypicken

Passionate book reader. Love all kind of books from 19th century novels to crime thrillers. My blog is predominantly crime, psychological thrillers and police procedurals with a good helping of literary fiction thrown in.

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