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The Twyford Code

Updated: Jan 23, 2023

I loved Hallett's The Appeal, and here again, Hallett has given us a smart, complex mystery to solve in a uniquely presented style.

Where The Appeal is told in epistolary form from email/text/chat group, The Twyford Code is told in transcripts of audio recordings.


Forty years ago, Steven Smith found a children's book by disgraced author Edith Twyford with notes and annotations in the margins. He shows it to his remedial English teacher, who tells him she believes it's part of a secret code that runs through Twyford's books. When his teacher goes missing on a field trip, Steven suspects she must've been right and knew too much. After a stint in prison and having this haunt him for years, Steven looks up four of his old classmates and sets out to crack the Twyford Code, recording everything on his estranged son's old iPhone.

I love that Hallett writes in such unconventional formats, as her books become intriguing and immersive once you get into them, and they require your attention to pick up clues. And this one takes several twists and turns, with detours, bad guys, and misdirections along the way. Add to that some intentional transcription errors, mostly phonetic, i.e., Miss Isles becomes "missiles," etc., and you find yourself challenged by an intricate and layered plot chasing down anagrams and symbols of what may be hidden code or a conspiracy theory. This story has a large cast of characters, flashbacks of Steve's life, multiple red herrings, and the puzzle of the code, so it was a lot to track while getting into the rhythm of the format. However, once I did, Hallett surprised me with a clever payoff that was so worth it!



Thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books for the opportunity to review this ARC. I enjoyed it!


My steep was Winter Solstice Tea by www.theteaspot.com

A rich Assam with butterscotch, vanilla and bergamot.



Synopsis: Forty years ago, Steven “Smithy” Smith found a copy of a famous children’s book by disgraced author Edith Twyford, its margins full of strange markings and annotations. When he showed it to his remedial English teacher Miss Iles, she believed that it was part of a secret code that ran through all of Twyford’s novels. And when she disappeared on a class field trip, Smithy became convinced that she had been right.


Now, out of prison after a long stretch, Smithy decides to investigate the mystery that has haunted him for decades. In a series of voice recordings on an old iPhone from his estranged son, Smithy alternates between visiting the people of his childhood and looking back on the events that later landed him in prison.


But it soon becomes clear that Edith Twyford wasn’t just a writer of forgotten children’s stories. The Twyford Code holds a great secret, and Smithy may just have the key.


“A modern Agatha Christie” (The Sunday Times, London), Janice Hallett has constructed a fiendishly clever, maddeningly original crime novel for lovers of word games, puzzles, and stories of redemption.




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