‘The Twyford Code’ – Janice Hallett


The Twyford Code is, I think, going to be one of those Marmite stories…but, however you respond to it overall, it’s a cleverly constructed puzzle.

Told through a series of audio file transcripts, it appears to be a series of recordings from ex-con Steven Smith to his son. In the files, Steven tries to work out exactly what happened to his remedial English teacher, Miss Isles, after she took he and his peers on a school trip and disappeared. For Steven this event is inextricably linked to his discovery of a book on a bus, a book by the writer Edith Twyford. This book was filled with strange markings, which his teacher interpreted as a code for helping to decipher a long-forgotten mystery. Steven can only recall fragments of that day so upon his release from prison he tries to use his old schoolmates to work out what happened.

Initially, I found it quite a puzzle to read. The transcriptions are not always clear, and some words are inaccurately presented. However, once you get a feel for the language then it is less noticeable.

The story is a fantastic one. Seen through the eyes of a rather unlikely hero, it’s very much a story that seems to make little sense. Steven’s obsession with the Twyford Code and his attempts to work out what it all means lead to all manner of scrapes. Things become increasingly dangerous, and it seems that there may be more to this than we were led to believe.

As the story nears its conclusion it becomes clearer that what has been presented to us is very much a smokescreen. Usually, this would annoy me no end, but I found it helped to make sense of some of the little details that had irritated me as I was reading. Now there was a reason for them, and it wasn’t quite what I expected.

I’m excited to see how this book is received by others once it’s released. Now I have finished it and know what’s being hidden, I think this might be a book to reread and enjoy in a whole new light. Though I enjoyed The Appeal, this was a whole new experience and I can’t wait to see what Hallett comes up with next.

Thanks to NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read this in advance of publication, and what a book to end 2021’s reading with.