New Review: The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett

The intersection of mystery and technology is a real area of interest for me, and there are some authors doing brilliant things. There also seems to be a resurgence of love for the epistolary novel (including Hallett's first novel, The Appeal), taking advantage of the many and varied ways social groups contact each other these days using the written word. The Twyford Code sits beautifully square at the centre of this Venn diagram, and does interesting things with methods of storytelling while providing a real romp of a story.

The Twyford Code is a series of voice recordings taken from an abandoned phone in which Smithy tells his probation officer about trying to track down an ex-teacher of his who went missing while on a school trip. Along the way we learn about Smithy's previous career as a grunt working for the local mafia, and uncover a tale of literary espionage from the Second World War.

One of the things that fascinated me is the clever way Hallett uses our implicit mistrust of the accuracy of technology as a plot device in a story that revolves around codes left in texts right under the reader's nose. Reliability in general is called into question throughout the novel, as the reader is presented with an Enid Blyton-esque author who might be bigot, patriot, double-agent, or simply a children's author. Smithy himself is called into question for his reliability as his narration seems to increasingly contradict itself.

What I don't want to suggest is that the story itself is over-shadowed by the way it's told. Hallett packs in a lot of content, filled with twists and turns, that will leave you promising 'one more chapter' late into the night. Smithy himself is a loveable character, easy to root for, and an engaging narrator.

Hallett barely pauses for breath in this brilliantly paced spy (?) thriller, but there is still room for emotional connection with the characters, and a last act twist that will have you wanting to read the book all over again.

The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett is published on January 13th, 2022, and is available for pre-order here.

With thanks to the publishers and for providing an electronic ARC.

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