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The Twyford Code


The Twyford Code

In 2022, mystery fans were introduced to Janice Hallett, a former magazine editor, journalist and government communications writer. Her first novel, THE APPEAL, was both unique and innovative in style and form. It was set in a small English village, and its format consisted almost entirely of texts and emails between the residents and a British barrister preparing an appeal in a murder case. The book was well-received in England and appeared on several “Best of 2022” mystery lists.

"This entertaining tale includes several red herrings and misdirection. Some characters seemingly die, only to reappear as the novel moves to an unexpected conclusion."

Unwilling to rest on her laurels, Hallett has written THE TWYFORD CODE, which is now available in the United States after receiving enthusiastic reviews in Great Britain last year. In style and substance, it is distinctly different from THE APPEAL. The main character is Steven “Smithy” Smith, who has been released from prison after serving a lengthy sentence for his involvement in a criminal escapade. Readers never really meet Smithy in person. Their only contact with him is through a series of recordings on an iPhone detailing his personal investigation of a long-ago unsolved mystery that has haunted him since his youth.

The book opens with a letter from a police inspector to a British professor. Included are 200 audio files that Smithy downloaded to his phone as he sought to investigate the disappearance of his remedial English teacher. The files are reproduced using imaginary software that transcribes what people said to him or what he personally recounted. All of this makes reading THE TWYFORD CODE somewhat more difficult than a traditional mystery. There is no narrative from an author to describe the various elements of the story --- no opening of doors, turning of heads, nods or smiles. This requires additional effort from readers and attention to detail on the pages.

Nevertheless, Hallett takes her audience on an entertaining and mind-boggling journey as Smithy seeks to recall details about the disappearance of Miss Iles, who would not allow him to read a children’s novel by disgraced author Edith Twyford. His investigation leads to many compelling plot twists and turns. Even more interesting is that Smithy himself is nowhere to be found. The phone and files are currently in the possession of the inspector who opens the novel with the aforementioned letter.

Smithy somehow wanders into a World War II plot involving secret codes and German spies. But even this may be only a cover story for a totally different crime. This entertaining tale includes several red herrings and misdirection. Some characters seemingly die, only to reappear as the novel moves to an unexpected conclusion.

Janice Hallett is acquiring a loyal following among mystery readers. Her third book already has been released in Great Britain and probably will appear in the US later this year. It promises to be another unique mystery from a fiendishly clever writer.

Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on January 27, 2023

The Twyford Code
by Janice Hallett

  • Publication Date: January 24, 2023
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • ISBN-10: 1668003228
  • ISBN-13: 9781668003220