Review: The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett

by Joli
The Twyford Code Book Review

The Twyford Code was totally nuts…in a good way! Read on for my thoughts.


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.

Janice Hallett has constructed a fiendishly clever, maddeningly original crime novel for lovers of word games, puzzles, and stories of redemption.

My Review

I fell into The Twyford Code so quickly. There’s this crazy mystery that Smithy quickly gets buried in as he starts looking back into it, and it takes off pretty fast. At that point in the beginning, I was really loving it!

I loved how, at the beginning of the book and up through much of it, the childhood memories of these people involved in the mystery are all jumbled. I feel like, if something as crazy as my teacher disappearing on a field trip happened to me, I’d remember. But really, how do we know? How do we know what’s true of our childhood memories until we compare them with others who were there, who were also kids? So much fallible memory going on, adding to the mystery.

The idea of a secret code being embedded in kids books – how cool is that? That’s probably what drew me into this book the most, was the idea of finding some World-War II era code inside a kids book.

I did have a couple problems with this book, which is why I rated it 3.5. They aren’t problems that tanked the whole thing for me, but they did take it down a little bit. The first one of those is the kids books that were supposedly published. Parts of the books are read out, and they are truly atrocious. Nobody would ever publish those books! I know the publisher supposedly got in on the code stuff, but the quality of the books makes it just…weird.

Or, if it did make more sense, it got lost for me because there was SO MUCH going on here. The details started to all mesh together in my brain, and I had a hard time following parts. The whole book is written as “recovered audio files” so they’re not always the easiest to understand who is talking to whom.

As we go through the story, Smithy starts to get a little obsessed, a little drunk, and a little harder to like, to be honest. I loved him at the beginning, but he got harder to love as the book went on. The code starts to kind of wreck his life, but then…

The ending (don’t worry, no spoilers). The ending was really cool. I just have no idea how authors can spin webs like the one in this book, and have the ending be something unexpected. I have to admit, I had a hard time wrapping my head around exactly what was happening, but when I figured it out, it was really freakin’ cool.

Overall, this book was a total ride. It sagged a little in the middle, but then the ending, I loved. So, I give The Twyford Code a 3.5 overall and, if its premise intrigues you, I say read it. | Amazon | Goodreads

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