One of the great finds for me this year is Janice Hallett. Expect “The Appeal” to feature in my Top 10 Books of the year. I was a little behind only getting to this 2021 publication in January this year when I was fulsome in my praise. I said, “If we are considering this debut in the “cosy crime” genre then this is the best “cosy crime” book I have ever read.” At the time this second novel was imminent and I did ponder “It will be interesting to see if she gets away with it twice or whether this book works so well as it is a fresh, original one-off.”
I decided, seeing this is now out in paperback that it was time to find out. The bulk of the book is transcripts from audio tapes recorded by Steve Smith, an ex-prisoner whose literary skills demand this type of communication. It is intended as a record for his probation officer and involves a teacher who inspired Steve as a youngster, Miss Isles, or missiles as the not always reliable transcript puts it, and her disappearance from his school. Not long before Steve had found a copy of an Enid Blytonesque book by once popular author Edith Twyford on a bus and he, his teacher and school friends are drawn into a mystery of whether Twyford used her books to communicate in code. A mystery which Steve aims to solve 40 years later.
That’s enough about plot but once again this is so tightly structured which is disguised by her gimmicky-appearing layouts. Flicking through the book, as with “The Appeal” it looks like a quick read but it’s not because this reader in particular got really into it, looking back, referring to other places in the book, with plot and structure both much denser than they originally appear. I think with this, compared to the debut, the readability is a little more compromised. In “The Appeal” we were drip-fed more clues which kept the interest up alongside its excellent characterisation. Here, all the clues the reader might need are there but you might have to wait for them. There was the odd moment when the image of Dusty Bin from the nonsensical 1970s game show “3-2-1” sprung into my mind (if you were around at the time you will see what I am getting at with references to clues within clues and misdirection which was the show’s ultimately very frustrating gimmick). Also, it might seem that a glib statement of “Dan Brown meets Enid Blyton” might initially seem fitting but does a disservice to the sheer skill of this story-teller.
I think a copy of “The Appeal” and this would make an ideal Christmas gift for crime/mystery fans as the puzzling, enigmatic style would be superb for the armchair detective in that period between Christmas and New Year. It would also look very stylish (I love the UK cover art of both books). It is like umpteen games of Cluedo, murder mysteries, classy seasonal TV crime adaptations and Christmas Cracker puzzles all rolled into literary joy. Third book from Janice Hallett “The Case Of The Alperton Angels” is out in January and I can’t wait.
The Twyford Code was published by Viper in 2022. The paperback edition is now available.
One thought on “The Twyford Code – Janice Hallett (2022)”
Pingback: Top 10 Books Of The Year 2022 – Part Two – The Top 5 – reviewsrevues