The Twyford Code

Atria. Jan. 2023. 336p. ISBN 9781668003220. $27. M
Steven Smith (Smithy), recently released from a long stint in prison, has goals: never go back to jail, connect with his son, Max, and find out what happened to his teacher, Miss Iles, who disappeared decades ago. Using a phone from Max, Smithy records conversations and his own musings. Smithy warns readers early on that the recordings have been transcribed utilizing software that often misinterprets the audio. Forty years prior, he found a children’s book written by banned author Edith Twyford on a bus and shared it with his teacher and class. Miss Iles read the book out loud, hinting that there could be a secret code in it that might solve a World War II-era mystery. Though she doesn’t return the book, she takes the class on a visit to the author’s hometown, but by Smithy’s recollection, she disappears on the trip. Smithy interviews his former classmates, who all remember the day’s events through their own lens; none agree as to what happened.
VERDICT Hallett (The Appeal) creates a unique and imaginative mystery utilizing both an unreliable narrator and mainly epistolary format. The tale spins wildly, and readers are never certain regarding the facts. It’s tough going at first but worth sticking with for Smithy.
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