About The Book
It’s time to solve the murder of the century…
Forty years ago, Steven Smith found a copy of a famous children’s book by disgraced author Edith Twyford, its margins full of strange markings and annotations. Wanting to know more, he took it to his English teacher Miss Iles, not realising the chain of events that he was setting in motion. Miss Iles became convinced that the book was the key to solving a puzzle, and that a message in secret code ran through all Twyford’s novels. Then Miss Iles disappeared on a class field trip, and Steven has no memory of what happened to her.
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 is it still in use today?
Desperate to recover his memories and find out what really happened to Miss Iles, 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…
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I hadn’t read Janice Hallett’s previous book The Appeal so had no idea what I was in store for. What I got with this novel was a lot of memories of The Famous Five series, a reminder of the accusations against their author Enid Blyton and an absolutely brilliant and original storyline.
Steve is an ex con, full of regret for the way he lived his life but determined to try and make the best of his release. One of his missions is to try and solve the disappearance of a teacher who he had a lot of liking for. After finding a book on his way to school which Miss Isles confiscated and then later read to his class, she took them on a school trip from which the children returned home but she didn’t. Steve has no idea what happened and after tracking down his old classmates down they try and find the answers.
With plenty of intrigue and the occasional red herring about the hidden code there is also historical fact. I have seen Martin’s Bank in Liverpool, and read the plaque about the gold bullion but had never looked for further information. I learned pretty quickly that I would be useless at cracking codes or acrostics but I enjoyed the enthusiasm shown by all of the group at doing so. Even if I didn’t fully understand.
As well as the investigation into Miss Isles disappearance and trying to crack the code there was the story of Steve’s life. The reasons why he ended up in prison, his devastating upbringing and his determination to do the right thing on his release. It was really his life story which I enjoyed the most.
It is written in an unusual way. Most of it is a series of diary excerpts, but these excerpts are transcripts of audio recordings rather than a written account . It did take me quite a while to understand some of it, for example, I was slightly baffled why there was a lot of talk about ‘missiles’, until I remembered that it was a phone, often hidden, doing the recordings and there was some ambiguity about what it heard and what was actually said. There were a number of times I had to reread lines but having to do so didn’t impact on my enjoyment of this novel, it made me appreciate it even more.