Hello hello and welcome or welcome back to my little bookish corner of the internet. Today I’m sharing my review of the The Twford Code, the second book by author Janice Hallett, author of The Appeal. I was sent this as an eARC and I’m so thrilled to be talking about it now.
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…
It’s a well known fact that Second Book Syndrome is a real issue in the writing world, and it’s always a bit of a gamble picking up a second book by an author, especially when you’ve loved their first. However, Janic Hallett has pulled a stunner out of the bag again, and the very fishy tale I ended up reading really was clever.
As we make our way through Steven’s story, his determination to solve the mystery really shines through, as does his desire to do right by his son, having been absent from his life for so long. As well as hearing about the mystery, we get pieces of Steven’s life throughout, which ends up being just as engaging as as the Code hunt.
We have a classic morally grey protagonist and unreliable narrator which makes for a fantastic story. There’s inconsistences as we go along, and you question whether they’re mistakes being made as a human being, or delibrate errors of a con man going maybe not as straight as he claims. I loved this so much; the uncertainty of it all allows for multiple layers of mystery, and it’s just brilliant.
In so many ways, this book is about a murder mystery. But running alongside that, it’s a story about redemption, about looking forward and not back, about connecting with those in your life that matter in ways that people might not understand. At points it was a full blow mystery, and at others an emotional journey. All of this combines to make a wonderful book, and I’m sure it’s going to cause as much of a splash as The Appeal.
Thanks for stopping by, and a big thank you to the publisher Viper Books and to NetGalley for this early access to a superb read.
The Twyford Code is due out early January 2022.