The Twyford CodeThe Twyford Code by Janice Hallett
My rating: 4/5 cats
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fulfilling my 2022 goal to read one book each month that was not published in my country that i wanted badly enough to have a copy shipped to me from abroad and then…never read.

We all remember things in our own way, she smiles, and we’re all correct…it’s emotional truth that matters.

hallett’s debut, The Appeal, was an extremely fun mystery novel that invited the reader to solve a muuurrrrderrr along with the characters entrusted with the same task, providing a novel’s-worth of emails and texts sourced from a number of suspects to sift through for clues in order to determine the victim, the motive, the accused, and the real killer.

The Twyford Code is another solve-it-yourself mystery novel, involving encoded children’s books, treasure, nazis, a dickensian orphan boy taken under a criminal’s wing, symbols, acrostics, patterns, red herrings, double-crosses, and redemption.

the clues this time are in the form of transcribed audio files, which may or may not lead to HIDDEN TREASURE! the files are of varying quality and significance, and the software returns some humorous phonetic translations, as well as lots of instances of ALL CAPS FOR EMPHASIS, [background noise] drowning out conversations, and intriguing elisions () of “indecipherable verbal content.”

here is the intro-letter inviting a character and the reader into the mystery’s deets:

Dear Professor Mansfield,

I am investigating a mysterious case and suspect you may be able to help. Let me explain.

An iPhone 4 is among a number of items belonging to a recently reported missing person. It is not associated with any mobile network and at first appeared to be blank, with no call records, music, emails, texts or photographs. Upon closer examination it was found to contain a series of deleted audio files: voice recordings in various encrypted formats, with dates that span eleven weeks in 2019. we recovered these files and deciphered them.

There are 200 files in total. We utilised specialist software and processed them in batches to speed up the transcription process. A key to this follows, along with the text. You will notice the transcription is phonetic, so spelling and grammar are quirky to say the least. On a number of occasions the software “mishears” or simply approximates words and phrases, especially when speech is in the vernacular. For instance, the phrase “must have” is frequently transcribed as “mustard.” “Going to” becomes “gun a” and the town of Bournemouth is referred to variously as “bore mouth,” “Bormuth,” “bore moth” and “boar mouth.” You will soon become accustomed to this and it should not interfere with your understanding of the material.

I’ve sent these files to you, Professor, in the strictest confidence. Quite apart from any personal connection you may have to the subject, your expert opinion on their contents would be very much appreciated. Call me when you’ve read to the end and we’ll speak then.

Yours sincerely,

Inspector Waliso

with The Appeal, i felt reasonably-equipped to participate in the crime-solving; i have a good memory for details and for noting discrepancies between characters’ versions of events, but here, i was verysoon outta my depth because codebreaking is not at all a part of my skill set. i’m fine with anagrams, but beyond that, my eyes kept balking anytime there was an explanation about how to go about cracking a code, and i just had to trust that the mystery would be solved by someone more capable at codesmithery and pattern recognition than dum dum me. however, i did try, and in the process, i played around with an online anagram generator and here are some choice selections from a much, MUCH longer list ( > 10,000) i generated using inspector waliso’s name:

answers il octopi
anoretic owl piss
alts oneiric wops
alpinist cow rose
alp crow noisiest
alien crow posits
air polices towns
ails inspector ow
acts spoiler wino
actors spoil wine
actors loin wipes
acorns stop Wilie
Ascot loin wipers
ASCII porn towels
Alonso rips twice
clitoris weapons

even though i was unable to participate in the investigative part of the experience, i had a ton of fun reading it. The Twyford Code has a better story to it than The Appeal, both because the structure of The Appeal isn’t narrative, so it’s jagged-by-design, but also The Twyford Code turned out to be more than *just* a mystery; there’s a lovely and emotionally-rewarding story at its core THAT I WILL SAY NO MORE ABOUT (…).

in conclusion: When you get what you want, you lose what you have.

in conclusion #2: YOU DIE NINTH, TOLL WHIFFS.

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