If you’ve read Janice Hallet’s previous novel ‘The Appeal’ then you’ll already know not to expect a straightforward read as this author has a unique way of letting her tales unravel – I’m pleased to confirm that The Twyford Code is no exception.

Upon starting the book you find that the story is told through a series of recording transcripts.  This is a bit difficult to get used to at first and there’s a key at the start that tells you what certain annotations mean  (for example (…) may mean a pause in the speech). It also warns you that there will be some mis-spelled or misinterpreted words because obviously it’s what the transcription software ‘thinks’ the voice has said. This allows for some clever misdirection as you don’t always realise that the software has got it wrong. However this method of storytelling will not be to everyone’s taste: I read this book through the Pigeonhole book club and a number of people gave up early on as they couldn’t get on with the format, or the repeated spelling ‘errors’ which grated on them a bit too much. So it’s definitely a marmite thing. Personally think that the author has done a great job in making her writing even more interesting, and keeps finding unique ways to do it.  I stuck with it and am happy I did – in my opinion the pay off was worth the effort.

Steve is our protagonist who has recently been released from a stint in prison and we find him reminiscing about his unsympathetic childhood years. He recalls how at 14 he discovered a book on the bus to school, a book that’s part of the ‘super six’ adventure series by the once revered, now problematic children’s author Edith Twyford. Obviously there are, shall we say, similarities between Edith and another prolific female children’s author from years gone by, I’m sure you can make the connection yourself. He takes the book to his favourite teacher who responds strangely and takes the small class on an impromptu school trip which puts into motion a chain of events that is still reverberating so many years later.

The rumours are that there’s a code within the pages of many of Edith’s books. There are forums and groups dedicated to ‘The Twyford Code’ and the discovery and cracking of it. They’re a very secretive sort though, and though it might seem a little over-the-top, strange things start to happen to those asking questions about Edith, and perhaps getting a little too close. Steve discovers this as he hot-foots it around the country to suss out the clues he’s found. Fun Fact: The places involved are not fictional – in fact one of them is literally over the road from my workplace and I went and took some photographs of the building to share with the book club as we read, and I can confirm that the author has been true to every little last detail. So what does Steve find there if anything? Well, Steve’s a bit fond of the old recreational self-medication and some of his recorded entries are…odd, to say the least. Is he a reliable narrator or is the code all happening inside his own head? Well, I’m afraid you’ll have to read it to find out – but I can vouch that it’s a lot of fun trying to figure it all out!

Publish date: January 13th 2022 by Viper

4/5

About the Author: Janice Hallett

Janice Hallett is a former magazine editor, award-winning journalist, and government communications writer. She wrote articles and speeches for, among others, the Cabinet Office, Home Office, and Department for International Development. Her enthusiasm for travel has taken her around the world several times, from Madagascar to the Galapagos, Guatemala to Zimbabwe, Japan, Russia, and South Korea. A playwright and screenwriter, she penned the feminist Shakespearean stage comedy NetherBard and cowrote the feature film Retreat. The Twyford Code is her second novel.