It’s time to solve the murder of the century…
Forty years ago, Steven Smith found a copy of a famous children’s book, its margins full of strange markings and annotations. He took it to his remedial English teacher, Miss Isles, who became convinced it was the key to solving a puzzle. That a message in secret code ran through all Edith Twyford’s novels. Then Miss Isles disappeared on a class field trip, and Steven’s memory won’t allow him to remember what happened. Now, out of prison after a long stretch, Steven decides to investigate the mystery that has haunted him for decades. Was Miss Isles 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 Isles, 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 much anticipated follow up to The Appeal [read my review here], one of my favourite reads of 2021. The Twyford Code once again uses an original format to relay the story to the reader – this time, it’s told largely through transcriptions of audio files, which main character Steven records on the iPhone his son gives him. We know there is something to investigate concerning Steven, as a professor is asked to read through the transcripts to help with a mysterious case right at the start of the novel. From then on, we delve into the various voice notes as we learn more about Steve, complete with lots of wrong words as the transcription software picks up on some words incorrectly (something which is flagged at the start of the book as part of the story, and which I found really amusing!)
This novel, although also using an original format like The Appeal, feels completely different from Janice Hallett’s first novel. We don’t have a small town, with gossiping amdram members; instead, we’re thrown into a shady world of dodgy dealing and codes hidden within children’s storybooks!
I have to say, I found this novel much harder to follow than The Appeal… the first quarter was fine but then after that, I found that I often lost the thread of what was actually going on. There’s a lot of details and conversations which we’re not sure are relevant or not (but if I’ve learnt anything from the first book, it’s to assume there will be lots of secret clues littered in the text – and there was again here, which is always satisfying!) and then, towards the end of the novel, a LOT of occurring as the action ramps up more towards the end. It honestly felt like I was in some kind of parallel universe at times as I tried to work out what was happening! Steve’s rambling recounting of his story definitely left me bemused, but I think that was sort of the point at times. At others, hey – I think I just got lost! However, if I’m honest, I just accepted that I wasn’t going to ‘get’ it all and instead relaxed and enjoy it.
I’d definitely recommend The Twyford Code for a fun, crazy read! It’s entertaining, fun and clever – but then, I’d expect nothing less from this author!
My rating: 4/5
Many thanks to the publisher, Viper Books, for providing a copy of this novel on which I wrote an honest review.