At first, I was skeptical of a book made entirely of audio transcripts. No, let me back up. At first, I assumed that the audio transcripts were a clever introduction and then the rest of the book would be standard fiction prose.
But in fact, The Twyford Code is entirely made up of fictional audio transcripts. And it is fabulous. Basically, it is a mystery within a mystery within a mystery. There may be more. I’ve lost count.
Most of the transcripts, supposedly given by law enforcement to a professor who is an expert in codes, are the transcribed recordings made by Steven “Little Smithy” Smith, upon his release from prison. Smith was a member of the Harrison family gang and spent 11 years behind bars for murder of one of the Harrison brothers.
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He learned to read in prison, which also gave him ample time to reflect on the strange disappearance of his favorite teacher. Miss Iles taught remedial reading to a small class when Smith was 14. After she disappeared, he never went back to school but embarked on life as a driver, enforcer and all-around criminal henchman for the Harrisons.
Smith is convinced that the teacher’s disappearance is connected to a book that Miss Iles confiscated from him, written by long-forgotten children’s author Edith Twyford. He begins to record his search for clues to the teacher’s disappearance using an old phone given to him by his estranged son. The recordings document Smith’s efforts to contact old school friends, strange clues in Twyford’s books, and a search for World War II treasure.
Not only is this an absorbing mystery for the reader to puzzle out with our ex-con, but there are clues planted throughout the book that point to a completely different mystery involving Smith’s sad past, the missing teacher, and the estranged son. And a third story twist. And then there is an actual code you can solve.
No spoilers, but this is an amazingly clever book on so many different levels. You may have to read it twice.