The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett
Janice Hallett’s book The Appeal was one of the most talked about novels of 2021and was the Sunday Times Crime Book of the Year. I bought it but it’s still on my To Be Read pile – oops! So when I heard her new book was out – The Twyford Code – I was determined not to wait so long to read it.
I had read a couple of reviews mentioning the format was a bit difficult to get into, as it’s transcriptions of audio files, but I didn’t find this a problem at all. There’s a very useful guide to it on page one (in the form of a letter) and I loved its idiosyncrasies, how some things were spelt phonetically. I found it made the speaker (Steven Smith) very real and authentic, as well as charming and endearing in the way he says things. I fell in love with it in the first chapter and wanted to keep reading, to see how the story unfolds.
The basic idea of the book is that Steven is recently out of jail and begins thinking about his schooldays. He remembers finding a copy of a book on a bus – by famous author Edith Twyford – and how his remedial English teacher read it to the class, before disappearing on a school trip. He decides to investigate the mystery of what happened to her forty years before.
Steven is an unlikely hero. At first glance, he’s someone you’d probably cross over the road to avoid. He’s homeless on and off, has a dodgy background, swears a lot, drinks, doesn’t wash as much as you’d like him to – yet you’ll love him too. He wants to improve himself, he has a good heart and he cares. I especially enjoyed his scenes in the library and with the staff he meets there.
Then, about a hundred pages before the end, I couldn’t stop reading. Until almost midnight, in fact. But I saved the last ten pages for the morning, because it was needing a lot of concentration and brain power. By this point, my brain was rather frazzled! It was working very hard with this book, wow! It’s a very intelligently written book and to read it, you have to have your wits about you.
I found this book both amazing and frustrating! Janice Hallett is an absolute genius, I have no idea how her brain managed to construct all the pieces of this puzzle – then take them apart and put them back together – but she did it with aplomb! No wonder her first novel did so well, I suspect Janice Hallett’s books are going to be treasured and revered for many decades to come.
The Twyford Code
The dazzling new novel from the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Appeal
This stunning crime novel reads like a modern classic. A must-read for lovers of
Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Sophie Hannah, Richard Osman and Alex
The Twyford Code delivers the perfect blend of ingenious format, fiendish plotting
and brilliant twists.
It’s time to solve the murder of the century…
Forty years ago, Steven Smith found a copy of a children’s book by disgraced author
Edith Twyford, full of strange markings and annotations. He took it to his English
teacher Miss Iles, who became convinced that the book was the key to solving a secret
code running through all Twyford’s novels. But then she disappeared. 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 if it is as valuable as Miss Iles thought, who else might be trying to solve
Janice Hallett studied English at UCL, and spent several years as a magazine editor,
winning two awards for journalism. Her debut novel, The Appeal, was a Sunday Times
bestseller, a Waterstones Thriller of the Month and Sunday Times Crime Book of the
Month. She lives in West London.