I had enormous fun reading this book, and I spent so so so much time speculating on the clues and what they could mean. The whole idea of a code hidden in a series of books is just so enticing. I was disappointed by the ending though and felt slightly conned by the whole thing, but I am trying to let go of that frustration and remember how much I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and that I had felt (before I reached the end) that it was one of the best books I’d read for ages. And even though the ending wasn’t as I’d hoped, the whole thing is really such an amazingly clever idea from the author, I am full of admiration for what she’s created. (And I still can’t help nurturing a small hope that it’s all a double/triple/quadruple-bluff (!) and the Twyford Code was real and was solved by Miss Iles!).
I had enormous fun reading this book, and I spent so so so much time speculating on the clues and what they could mean. The whole idea of a code hidden in a series of books is just so enticing. I was disappointed by the ending though and felt slightly conned by the whole thing, but I am trying to let go of that frustration and remember how much I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and that I had felt (before I reached the end) that it was one of the best books I’d read for ages. And even though the ending wasn’t as I’d hoped, the whole thing is really such an amazingly clever idea from the author, I am full of admiration for what she’s created. (And I still can’t help nurturing a small hope that it’s all a double/triple/quadruple-bluff (!) and the Twyford Code was real and was solved by Miss Iles!).
My first thought about the book was how good it sounds from the blurb on the back, a potential code hidden in a series of children’s books, I’m already thinking of the author as Enid Blyton. It sounds an interesting idea, and I hope the book lives up to the blurb. And I love the cover published by Viper, with the embossed words, it feels so nice to run your finger over. And I’m intrigued by the symbols on the fish’s scales on the cover and what these could mean, if they’re relevant at all.
Hmmm, just from the first page I have a mix of feelings. The mention of an iPhone 4 initially makes my heart sink slightly as I don’t much like technology with detection, I guess I’m more familiar with Golden Age mysteries before all this technology. But then my imagination is fired up as the phone contains deleted audio files, so that all sounds very intriguing. Then I feel disappointed again when it says the software transcript mishears and is quirky, as I then feel apprehensive that it’ll be annoying and distracting to read and wish it was just an accurate transcript or not in transcript format at all, and I feel apprehensive seeing the key for the transcript text on the following page as I don’t want to keep interrupting myself to flick back to the key. And then I’m wondering if the Inspector’s surname, who has written this letter to Professor Mansfield asking for his view on the transcript, is an anagram as it seems a very unusual name, Waliso. And I’m wondering who Professor Mansfield is.
Then the transcript begins, we learn the speaker, Steve Smith, is of working age as he mentions potentially calling in sick, that he’s been in jail, he’s uneducated as has only just learnt to read, he has a son of about middle-age as this son has hair beginning to grey, Steve has only learnt recently of this son’s existence, and that this son is reluctant to have his father in his life. Steve also seems to be creating the transcript for somebody called Maxine but hasn’t specified who she is. I do like that he has developed a love of words and books now he has learnt to read, that is heartening and I am wanting to like him based solely on the fact he now has a love of books. I don’t like dialect in books though, grrr, I know this isn’t strong dialect, just words such as ‘me’ instead of ‘my’ and ‘Kos’ instead of ‘because’ but it just stops me in my tracks for a milli-second and I find that distracting. And what’s the meaning of the ‘missiles’ he mentions, is that a misheard or dialect word? Oooh, I was pondering the ‘missiles’ thing later in the day and wondering if it was a software transcript mishear and began thinking it could be ‘Miss’ someone and then suddenly remembered the blurb on the back of the book mentions a Miss Iles, yay, this must be it! In which case, having the story in transcript is quite a clever idea if it gives the reader little puzzles like that to solve. We learn Steve’s mother abandoned him when he was only a young child, his dad left too and he was brought up by his brother who is 11 years older than him, and Steve is also dyslexic which I presume explains why he prefers telling his story in transcript rather than writing or typing it.
Steve relates that in 1983, when he was 14, he was late for school and a green bus approached, he was surprised it was green as these were the colour of country buses whereas the buses where he lived in London were red, he can’t remember if there was anyone else on the bus and he saw no conductor, there was a book on the seat of the bus, it had a cover with ‘a pencil drawing of a boy in a red jumper, watching a model plane in the sky’. I feel the description of the book could be important, so have made a point of jotting it down, it all sounds a little mysterious and potentially magical, although Steve doesn’t really seem like a person that magic happens to! He planned to sell the book as he couldn’t read it himself, but his teacher Miss Iles (missiles!) took it off him. She said it used to be her favourite book when she was a child, but that it was now a banned book and asked Steve where he got it. Oooh, a banned book! She said the book was from a series featuring the Super Six who are six children, 3 boys and 3 girls, who stay with their aunt in the countryside every school holiday and have adventures. Oooh, it does sound very like Blyton’s Adventure series, which I love and often re-read. Miss Iles said it was published in 1939, and was banned now due to its racist and sexist language, and she could be sacked for reading it to them. She then began to read the book to the class, it was the story of some children going camping and seeing something suspicious at an abandoned airfield. Then Miss Iles found a slip of paper between the pages and looked puzzled, and stopped reading, telling the children she would continue the story tomorrow. After class, Steve asked for the book back, Miss Iles asked again where he found it, and she briefly showed him the piece of paper in the book and told him it read ‘Deliver to Alice Iles’. Steve couldn’t read so couldn’t tell if this was what the paper actually said but he thought it strange that it would say that. Oooh, it’s getting nicely mysterious. At the next class, Miss Isles finished reading the book to them. Steve saw she had put pages of notes inside the book. Miss Iles then took them on a school trip to Bournemouth, but he suspected the school authorities had no knowledge of her doing this. He says she disappeared on the trip and he’s not sure now if he ever knew what happened or if he’s just forgotten, but he knows she never came back.
He decides to trace the others in the class for their memory of what happened on that school trip. He finds one of them, Paul Clacken, and attempts to record the conversation but Paul says he wasn’t on the school trip, though Steve knows he was. Paul is friendly with Steve at the start of the meet-up, but when Steve mentions the school trip and Miss Iles, he then storms out. Steve meets up with another classmate, Michelle, telling her he is writing a book about inner-city kids and how they can break out of the cycle of disadvantage. She tells Steve he isn’t remembering clearly about the school trip, she also tells him the book was written by Edith Twyford, that Miss Isles loved the books and read them to the kids in almost every class, and that they’d gone to Bournemouth because that was where Edith Twyford was from. Michelle tries to grab Steve’s phone when she realises he’s recording their chat.
Steve goes to the library to find some Edith Twyford books, they don’t have any of her books but the librarian helps him buy a copy from ebay, the book he found as a child was called Six On Goldtop Hill, and Steve buys a copy of this. He googles Edith Twyford and finds an expert on her called Rosemary Wintle, he emails Wintle telling her he’s writing a book and she agrees to be interviewed for the book, he meets her at the English Department at the University College London. She clarifies she’s actually an expert on 20th century children’s literature, and she’s a consultant for Twyford’s publisher and sometimes speaks about her in the media. I’m very envious of her job as an expert on children’s literature! I am also presuming Twyford is dead now. Wintle says the Super Six series was written between 1939 and 1963, she says the books aren’t banned but haven’t been actively promoted by schools and aren’t often stocked in libraries. I find this really sad, I do hope Enid Blyton isn’t viewed in this way too. Wintle says Twyford wrote in a particular way, simple and unchallenging with no depth or hidden meaning and her reality borders on fantasy, she wrote mostly during the Second World War as she wanted to help children escape the trauma around them, and her books appear dated now, she says that the books republished in the 70s have been edited to remove the sexist and racist language, and that Twyford was accused of racism and sexism even in the 30s, and that her books have been published in 42 languages. I wonder if my copies of Enid Blyton from the 80s have been similarly edited.
Steve reads his copy of Six On Goldtop Hill. The six children are the Hortons, Sophie and Rose and Iris and Edward and Piers and Horatio, and they stay at Cross Keys house with their aunt. I think it sounds like a great book to read. Steve can’t see any reason in the book for Miss Iles not returning from Bournemouth that day. He also thinks about his son a lot. He tracks down Nathan Welch from Miss Iles’ class and arranges to meet with him, recording the conversation again explaining he is writing a book. Nathan seems keen to talk and remembers the school trip, he says it’s always bothered him as it didn’t seem like an official trip, he remembers they went to a cottage in Bournemouth and they couldn’t manage to get in but that Steve broke in and let the others in, that Miss Iles seemed to be looking for something at the house and they split up so each looked in different rooms but Nathan doesn’t know if Miss Iles found what she was looking for and he couldn’t find her inside the house so waited outside. Steve doesn’t seem to remember this cottage. I wonder if he’s blocked things out or if Nathan is making it up. Nathan says they then went to a piece of countryside with old bunkers from the war, they played about until it got dark, which Nathan estimates must have been 9pm or 10pm as it was summer, and they then realised that Miss Iles wasn’t there. He’s not sure how they got home. Steve suggests someone else must have driven them home and taken back the minibus, but he can’t remember anything about getting home. I wonder why he can’t remember anything, did something dreadful happen which he has blocked out, and the others are too traumatised to think about so say they can’t remember. Nathan just presumes Miss Iles came back and drove them home, he doesn’t think anyone talked to them about it afterwards, he knows it was a few days before the end of term and that Miss Iles wasn’t there the next term so he presumes she was sacked for taking kids out on an unauthorised trip and it was all hushed up.
Steve makes contact with the last member of his class, Donna Cole. He thinks it’s like she was expecting him to contact her. He meets her with Nathan. She says Miss Iles told her that she had spotted a secret code in the books and that the trip to Bournemouth was a cover and that she was looking for something that others wanted to stay hidden, that she’d explained this to Donna in case anything happened, and Donna thinks Miss Iles was kidnapped and killed. She says Twyford and her husband knew powerful people and learned something significant but couldn’t do anything about it so she put it all in her books, Donna now wonders if the secret code that Miss Iles spoke about was something to do with the Second World War as Twyford wrote so many of her books during the war and this could have been in order to send a message. Donna says Miss Iles didn’t tell her what the code or the secret was, and when asked by Steve and Nathan why she hasn’t said anything about this in 40 years she says she was scared to. She tells them she will look into a few things and be in touch. Nathan thinks Donna is crazy.
Donna had said she always thought Paul drove the bus home, but when Steve later asks Paul about this he denies it, Paul says they fell asleep on the bus planning to find a phone box when it was light and that someone must have turned up and driven them home. Steve begins to wonder who did drive them home, and did this person or people just wait till all the kids were on the bus and fell asleep. I wonder if they were drugged somehow, is this also why Steve can’t remember much. Paul tells Steve that Steve read the book out to class the day he found it, Paul presumed Steve just made the words up as he couldn’t read but that it shocked and excited Miss Iles and she said that Steve’s brain worked differently and that he could see things others couldn’t. Steve remembers none of this.
Steve gets more of Twyford’s books looking for possible code words or similar links, all he can see as a possible connection between the books is that on the front cover one child always has a red item of clothing on.
He visits the teacher who replaced Miss Iles, a Mr Wilson, he is in a nursing home. Steve asks him if he knows anything about the Twyford Code and Mr Wilson immediately presses a panic alarm and staff come to help. Mr Wilson does say the words ‘very important thing now’ and ‘can’t get to it’, but staff tell Steve he is 97 and gets very confused. Steve feels sure Mr Wilson knows something. Oooh, I wonder this too.
I do wonder how this will play out and what kind of story it’s going to be, I also wonder if there is significance to the kids being unable to read fully, Steve can read as an adult but can’t see anything relevant in the books now but was it that particular book he found that had something written in it that he was unable to read and that Miss Iles saw, or was it something in the pictures which he would have focused more on as a child who was unable to read. Does the green bus and him being the only passenger actually mean something, was it all some plot with the book meant to be collected by someone else. Or is it that he’s remembered this all wrongly, or even is he delusional. Why can’t he seem to remember things about that day at Bournemouth that others can seem to remember, did he have a bigger part to play in it all and is he lying to the reader or to himself. It’s a little frustrating him being the narrator but appearing not to remember things clearly, it makes it a little hard to trust him. And if there is something sinister, then I’m a bit apprehensive of him sharing so much with his old classmates, particularly as he seems to sense they are acting oddly. I’m not sure I like reading it in transcript too, it all feels too fast and I don’t have time to think things through, I find I have to put the book down and give myself time to ponder, it also makes me feel quite distant from the characters. We do have Steve’s thoughts as he’s recording these into the transcript, but this makes it very one-sided as we have nothing from the author or from anyone else, no scenes are described and no-one else describes how Steve is or acts, etc. And when he’s in conversation with someone, I find it confusing who is ‘voice 1’ and who is ‘voice 2’ etc which interrupts the flow. I’m quite excited to think it could be to do with the war though. Steve keeps mentioning his newly discovered son too, he obviously regrets not having a relationship with him earlier. And the recordings all seem to be for Maxine and to prove something to her, I presume she must be his ex, though not the mother of his son. He also keeps mentioning his ties to the Harrison brothers and their illegal activities.
Steve suggests to Nathan that they visit Bournemouth again, retracing their footsteps from that day and see if it jogs their memories. When he meets up on the day with Nathan, he is surprised to see Michelle there too. Nathan said he told Michelle about the trip but Steve thought when he’d asked Michelle if she had any contact details for any of their classmates she’d said she wasn’t in touch with any of them. Hmmm, what is it about these classmates, are they all in some plot together and concealing something, or is Steve just imagining all of it and seeing conspiracies where there are none, and if so is he imagining something with this Twyford book and Miss Iles which was never actually anything.
They go to Twyford’s cottage and the present owner lets them in for a fee and shows them the study where Twyford worked. Steve recognises the window he broke in by. I find it interesting that he does now remember breaking in. Steve asks the owner about the Twyford Code, the owner says everyone asks him about this and that people’s theories range from hidden Nazi treasure to a portal to another universe, he says people think this is due to the ‘a cross tick’ in the Goldtop book which reads something like ‘a fish to open me’. I’m wondering if this ‘a cross tick’ is actually an acrostic, like a crossword puzzle. The owner thinks Twyford did put this there in her book but that it was a clue or coincidence related to the plot of a later book which she planned to reveal but never did, either because she got distracted or as a result of her dementia. I’m worrying now that if she got dementia then there may be no solution from her to find. I’m also now desperate for Steve to look in the Goldtop book at the fish reference and see exactly what it says, it’s so frustrating that we, the reader, can’t see the Goldtop book also. When they exit, Michelle and Nathan say it’s all over and they’ve found the answer that the code is a hoax. Steve is not satisfied however, and says in his transcript that he has taken something from the house that he believes is the key. Ooooh, what is it?! I’m thinking again that this transcript form is so limiting as there’s no details of where people move to and what they do.
I looked back at this chapter and the only things Steve talks about seeing in the cottage is a photo on the wall of Twyford sat at her desk with a view of the cliff through the window and with a bookcase and some paintings on the wall, he sees a larger version of this photo above the toilet, he also talks about seeing various hallway items like coats and wellies and various kitchen items like a teapot and griddle. I see he says Twyford told him herself where the key was, so was this something he saw in the photo, and does Nathan and Michelle’s keenness to believe the solution has been found mean anything, is there something they are concealing from Steve or is it just him looking for conspiracies.
Omg, it’s a secret map of Dorset!! Ooooh, I’m loving this. Steve had taken from the cottage a paper from the wooden box he’d used as a step when he broke into the cottage as a child, he’d seen from the photo of Twyford that her pose seemed unnatural and her fingers pointed towards the box when it was in the room with her, he’d then found the box in the hall cupboard where he’d broken in through the window, it had a clasp designed as a fish and he opened it to find a sheet of paper which was made up of four illustrations torn from the Goldtop book, stuck together at different angles so they create a totally new picture with an outline drawn around and through the image in red fountain pen which is the map of Dorset. He also says there were the numbers 5 and 3 and 2 and 4 in the photo which Steve believes are the combination to a safe. Oooh, I’m excited again now! I wonder how he saw those numbers though.
Steve goes to Nathan with the paper of illustrations showing the map of Dorset. Steve suggests they go back to the cottage, he wants to look for a safe because of his discovery of the numbers, but he doesn’t tell Nathan this and instead says he thinks they are in danger whilst they’ve got this map and they need to return it to the cottage. Nathan isn’t happy that Steve has brought this danger to him and says he has a wife and child, unlike Steve. Steve also shares his concern that Donna isn’t answering her phone. I wonder if Nathan is the bad guy here, if there is a bad guy, though he’d only have been a child in Miss Iles’ time. I did like the humour here when Steve tells a horrified Nathan he stole the paper and Nathan ‘gives me a look like I’ve robbed a bank, shot all the customers, and kicked a puppy on the way out’, tee hee.
Eeek, I have just looked up ‘acrostic’ on Wikipedia. It says ‘an acrostic is a poem or other word composition in which the first letter (or syllable, or word) of each new line (or paragraph, or other recurring feature in the text) spells out a word, message, or the alphabet. Acrostics are common in mediaeval literature, where they usually serve to highlight the name of the poet or his patron, or to make a prayer to a saint. They are most frequent in verse works but can also appear in prose. Using letters to hide a message, as in acrostic ciphers, was popular during the Renaissance, and could employ various methods of enciphering, such as selecting other letters than initials based on a repeating pattern (equidistant letter sequences), or even concealing the message by starting at the end of the text and working backwards. A well-known acrostic in Greek is for the phrase JESUS CHRIST, GOD’S SON, SAVIOUR, the initial letters of which spell ΙΧΘΥΣ (ICHTHYS), which means fish’. Eeek, fish! A fish is mentioned in her book as being a possible code, and a fish is on the cover! According to Wikipedia, this fish or ichthys symbol ‘was used by Christians to recognise churches and other believers during a time when they faced persecution in the Roman Empire’, and the ichthys symbol is also a reference to ‘the Holy Eucharist, with which the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes had such intimate connection both in point of time and significance’. Hmmm, am I onto something here, was Twyford trying to reference something to do with religion or people facing persecution. Or am I totally off on a tangent! Well, even if off on a tangent, then it’s still interesting, as are most things I read on Wikipedia. And while I’m off on a tangent (!), I loved discovering that acrostics have been used in more modern times too, as James May put one in an edition of Autocar magazine and it was discovered and he was sacked (!), and several staff included them in their resignation letters to Donald Trump!! Oooh, I do love Wikipedia.
I like Steve’s friend, Lucy, at the library, she tries to help him with his phone and the internet and books, though her boss frowns at this. She says authors often connect separate stories by places and characters, like Evelyn Waugh. Oooh, this interests me as I have Waugh’s Decline and Fall on my bookshelf waiting to be read, I read Brideshead Revisited years ago and it didn’t grab me but I still suspect that was something lacking in me rather than lacking in the book and mean to try it again.
Steve reads another Six book which he thinks references Goldtop Hill with mentioning a ‘big green hill… (where) we can see five counties’ which is stated about Goldtop Hill. Steve sat on a park bench with the books and accidentally left the books on the bench, but when he’d got back to his hostel later in the day the books had been handed in with his name on. Hmmm, very intriguing, what does this mean, was someone watching him, wanting to ensure he continued on this trail with the books.
Steve warns Lucy about looking into the Twyford Code too deeply, saying it is ‘sly’ and ‘makes you destroy yourself from the inside’. Hmmm, I find that interesting, it seems surprisingly forceful and he is seeming to imply that any threat isn’t external from an enemy but internal and that it could cause obsession and perhaps make you delusional, I had wondered before if this could all be in Steve’s head, something driving him that may be related to something else. Lucy says from her reading up of Twyford, she learnt that Twyford went to Germany during the war in order to read her books to German children saying they were as upset and frightened as English children, even though she was criticised for this, that her father was German and changed his name from Tritschler in 1915 so she spoke the German language and had dual nationality. Lucy shows him a photo on the internet of Twyford, Steve says this is the same photo he saw at the cottage and he thinks the painting shown on the wall between the bookcases in the photo shows four circles, Lucy says that to her these perfect circles symbolise security amidst the trauma and destruction of war, Steve says to him the circles look like dartboards with segments shaded in representing the numbers 5 and 3 and 2 and 4, and the lines trace a back and forth movement that he thinks symbolises the turns in a combination lock. Lucy sees two more circles in the painting which, following Steve’s dartboard theory, give numbers 2 and 5. Ooooh, so this is what Steve spotted in the photo of Twyford at the cottage!
Mr Wilson dies. He left a message for Steve saying he gave the book to Steve’s brother but it was meant for Steve. I’m wondering if Mr Wilson’s death was natural, for it to happen so soon after Steve has brought it all up again about Miss Iles. Steve decides he has to find his brother, Colin, to ask him about the book. When he goes to Colin’s flat, it is full of junk and Steve realises Colin has a problem with hoarding. However, Colin thinks Steve has come because he has guessed Colin’s secret, and Colin goes on to admit he killed their dad! Colin says it was for revenge, and Steve then assumes that their dad killed their mum. Omg, I didn’t see that coming, this is all taking an unexpected turn! Steve realises he can’t talk to anyone else about this but finds comfort talking into the phone and recording it, to ‘talk to someone who won’t ever tell’. Aaah, bless him, I found that touching. Steve later goes back to Colin to ask if Mr Wilson dropped the book off there, Colin remembers he did and says he’ll look for it.
Donna appears saying she is fine, she was just busy so didn’t answer her phone. Steve feels like she could have been watching or following him. He doesn’t tell her about the book being at Colin’s house, but tells her about the visit to Bournemouth and the illustrations he found in the fish box in the cottage that make up a map of Dorset. She looks at the map and sees Bournemouth on there, and also RAF Tarrant Rushton airbase constructed during the Second World War and she thinks this is where Miss Iles took them that day.
Steve looks at the four books again, Goldtop Hill, Devil’s Island, Thrilling Puzzle, and Shadow Rock. He notices each cover has a child wearing a red top full of lines and wrinkles and there is a cross and tick within the lines. Eeek, this must mean ‘acrostic’! He decides to phone in sick at his workplace in order to give himself more time to devote to this, but loses his temper and quits instead and then feels regret towards his probation officer, Maxine. Ooooh, so Maxine isn’t his ex but is a probation officer. He goes with Donna to Tarrant Rushton airbase, she suggests all the criticism of Twyford could be in order to distract people from the Code so the ones seeking it then have less competition. She says she took Steve’s books back to his hostel when he’d left them on the park bench, she says she was following him that day but that was to make sure that no-one else was following him. He tells Donna about the crosses and ticks in the red jumpers, an observation which she loves. She says Twyford’s husband drew the pictures for her books. Steve mentions the owner of the cottage talking about crosses and ticks, and Donna then explains acrostics to him, and shows him the acrostic in the Goldtop book which reads ‘A fish to open I’ with its key word of cat or three words whose first letters spell cat. She says this was discovered in the 90s.
I am absolutely fascinated by the acrostic within the text of the Twyford book, although the text quoted doesn’t really run like that as there are unused words between the ‘cat’ and ‘cat’, and the fish sentence formed from the acrostic doesn’t really make sense or seem useful, is this really the acrostic Twyford intended or is it just people searching vainly for something. I was also wondering if Miss Iles was actually one of the first people to discover the acrostics used in Steve’s book if others didn’t widely know about it before the 90s, or did she discover something else in the book which led her to the cottage and airfield. I just love love love the idea of acrostics being hidden within a book and key words marking where to look, I think I’ll be tempted to scan other books I read now looking for possible acrostics, tee hee. I also love that the red jumper pictured on several of the book covers contains a cross and a tick which denotes there is an acrostic within that book, I just love all this detail! I flicked back through the book looking for other extracts from Twyford’s book to see if there are more ‘cat’ acrostics, and chapter 1 has an acrostic which spells ‘this is the start’!!!! It’s so exciting! I also see that the extract that Steve focused on the five counties bit has an acrostic that spells ‘fish in rushton tunnel nine moons’, not sure about the ‘nine moons’ bit, maybe that’s something else but the ‘rushton tunnel’ bit sounds good, and it’s another fish connection although I can’t see the relevance of the fish apart from being to do with Christianity. I can’t remember now if someone else has spotted the Rushton Tunnel acrostic, I think Donna suggested going to Tarrent Rushton airfield because of the Dorset map and her memory that this was where Miss Iles took them. I love this though, I want there to be something similar in the Enid Blyton books I love! I am bothered by the ‘a fish to open me’ acrostic though as that leaves ‘rttbbf’ left, or was it not possible to manage to make a sensible sentence when using all the first letters between the key words so Twyford had to leave words in the sequence whose first letters meant nothing, but it doesn’t seem quite tidy to me. I almost wish we could have the Twyford book to read alongside, like Antony Horowitz’s books with the Susan Ryeland character where the old Atticus Pund book is interspersed with the modern book. I’ve had to jot down which pages in the book give extracts from Twyford’s books, for my own obsessiveness, so these are on pages 48, 113, 143, 185, 252, 253, and 272.
I have to admit I started doubting Steve after Colin said he didn’t tell him about killing their dad as he feared Steve might kill him, and then Steve saying something like ‘what does he know about me’ as I was unsure if this meant ‘how could he think that of me’ or it meant that Steve had previously done something violent like that and he wondered if Colin knew about it. I then immediately worried that Steve had killed Colin when we had Steve sat in a car covered in mud and blood, I thought Steve might have dumped Colin’s body in the mud sump. I actually had to flick forward in the book to find out if Steve had killed Colin! I think I am finding it hard to fully trust Steve as a narrator because of this transcript style, I guess I can see the mischievous way the author uses the transcript as it conceals some things and makes the reader have to be observant, such as the word ‘acrostic’ being transcribed as ‘a cross and tick’, but then I also worry I’m missing things!
At the airbase with Donna, Steve spots that there is a child-like outline of a plane carved into the memorial stone, he thinks this is identical to the shape and angle of the plane on the cover of the Goldtop book. Oooh, that’s intriguing. They recognise the gates from their visit there with Miss Iles. They see chalky sections of disused runways. They find a large iron ring in the ground near the centre of the site, it’s attached to a trapdoor. They open the trapdoor and go down. Eeek, I’m not sure this is a good idea! They’re in a tunnel created into a semicircle with corrugated metal sheets, they think something used to be stored there. I am nervous they’ll come across Miss Iles’ body! Steve finds a leather wallet in the ground of the tunnel, there is an ID card in it with a drawing of a big black eagle and an ink stamp, Steve sees the writing in his dyslexic mind as ‘Werner Rick tar’. Ooooh, so German, but how is it really spelt, as this is just Steve saying it. They see a giant fish painted on the wall beneath the trapdoor. Steve notices the lines and angles of the fish are the same as the glider on the memorial stone and on the book cover. The tail points directly to the trapdoor as if it marks the spot, and they remember the acrostic ‘a fish to open me’. They then see two people’s shadows above them and the trapdoor begins to close, they shout but it slams shut. Eeek, eeek, eeek, I can’t bear it!! They firstly panic and blame each other, then Steve climbs up the corrugated curved sheet to try and open the trapdoor, and it is then opened from above. The people who have rescued them are called Lionel and Maeve, although Steve was injured by Lionel accidentally dropping the trapdoor on him, hence his injuries. I apologise to Steve for thinking these injuries were due to him murdering his brother! Lionel and Maeve say they saw two men hidden who were watching Steve and Donna and who then crept up to the trapdoor and slammed it shut and ran away. Omg, what does this mean, who are these men?! Lionel and Maeve are ‘Masqueraders’ hunting the Golden Hare made of gold and with jewels attached, they show Steve and Donna a laminated page of an intricate drawing torn from a book, there is a huge hare in the drawing amongst plants and animals and birds, they say the Golden Hare is infused with lunar power to protect whoever discovers it, and it exudes a mystical energy and has the power to grant endless life, they say the importance of the Golden Hare is the journey you take to find it, the clues you follow and the riddles you solve, and they show them a whole book full of similar drawings and clues, they say they have been searching for the Golden Hare for over 20 years and they’re only on page 6 of the book. I find all this a bit weird, but also enticingly fascinating! Donna knows all about the Golden Hare and says it was found decades ago, Maeve responds that is what ‘they’ want people to think in order to put true Masqueraders off the scent. They ask if Steve and Donna are Twyford Coders, Lionel seems to imply the nearby hill is Goldtop Hill. I can’t help finding it a bit suspicious that both hunters of different things, the Hare and the Code, are led to the same place. Donna tells Steve later that she remembers the book of drawings that Lionel and Maeve are following, she says it was called Masquerade and was by Kit Williams, he made a gold ornament in the shape of a hare and hid it and left clues in the drawings regarding its location, she says it was on tv and the Masqueraders were filmed following the clues, she says the drawings were so cryptic that no-one solved them for years and then some people got details of the hiding place from Williams’ ex-girlfriend and dug up the hare ornament, though a couple did solve the clues a few days later. She says Kit Williams’ name is a masquerade of ‘I will mask it’. Donna then says the Golden Hare search, like the Twyford Code search, is a delusion and distraction that protects people from facing things, and then says she needs to sort her life out and that she’s finished with the Code. Oooh, I’ve just checked on amazon and there is actually a book called Masquerade by Kit Williams, and another book called The Quest for the Golden Hare by Bamber Gascoigne, I think I’m going to have to look at these!
I’m getting a bit obsessed with anagrams now after Donna mentions other trails people have gone on such as the Golden Hare one where the author’s name spells something in an anagram, and am wondering if Miss Iles’ name spells anything, Iles spells ‘lies’, could that be significant. I have also gone back to the inspector’s name again too, at the start of the book, trying to see if that makes another word, but can’t see anything immediately in that.
Steve goes to Nathan’s house, as he is now homeless as his place at the hostel depended on him keeping to the terms of his parole and keeping his job which he has now quit. Nathan patches up Steve’s wounds from the trapdoor. Steve wanders into Nathan’s garage planning to sleep there, and discovers walls full of information on the Twyford Code, books and photos and maps and papers and folders and a computer. Nathan apologises for not telling Steve before but says the Twyford community is very cliquey and they are reluctant to let others in as they’ve agreed to share the proceeds of what they eventually find and the more people there are then the less the share will be. He says he’s been following it for years and that Michelle is a member too. Steve is suspicious why Nathan lied to him, and annoyed he didn’t spot Nathan was lying when he prides himself on spotting a liar. I’m wondering about Paul now too, is he a member as well with how reticent he was to talk to Steve about all this. Nathan says the chatroom that Donna found is just a front to put off idle searchers and underneath that is a secret group of members. Steve thinks Nathan seems obsessed by it all. Nathan says that the owner of the cottage is also a member and they told him they were coming to visit, and he says the map that Steve found at the cottage was a red herring. Steve reminds Nathan that the reason he is in this is because he wants to find out what happened to Miss Iles, that she had a Goldtop book full of writing and workings-out, that she was following the Code when she took them to Bournemouth and Tarrant Rushton airbase and there was no group like this then, and she disappeared. He doesn’t tell Nathan about the tunnel and the fish and the wallet and the trapdoor.
Lucy calls Steve telling him she’s been studying the painting on the wall in the background of the Twyford photo again. Steve says Twyford’s husband painted this. I’m not sure I remember us being told this, I thought I remembered it was said that her husband did the illustrations in her books but where did we hear that he did this painting too. Lucy says the painting looks like a Kandinsky drawing but isn’t one of his and is just a very skilful imitation, she’s found a high quality copy online of the painting and says there are 11 circles in it, not six. And she says the painting is one of a pair with the other one on the other side of the bookcase in the photo and there are five more circles in the second painting, so following Steve’s dartboard theory the numbers are 5, 3, 2, 4, 2, 5, 2, 5, 9, 3, 2. She says added up they come to 42 which she says is known as one of the most extraordinary numbers and she refers to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy book, and that in Japanese the number 42 means ‘to die’, and that the numbers on a dice add up to half of 42 and the singular of dice is a die, and that 42 is the angle of a rainbow. Omg, this all blows my mind a bit, is 42 really such an extraordinary number! Steve says there are 21 Super Six books, which is half of 42, and these are translated into 42 languages. I’m not sure if I’m more tempted to think the numbers relate to letters of the alphabet, surely letters and words would be more Twyford’s natural choice than numbers. Hmmm, I can’t make the 11 numbers fit letters of the alphabet, all I get using each number to represent the order of the alphabet is ‘ecbdbebeicb’, and if I try to add up two letters together to represent the order of the alphabet I get ‘hfgglb’, tee hee! I was really hoping the letters would either resemble the ICHTHYS word (the Greek for fish which I found doing my acrostics research on wikipedia), or would be the remaining letters left over in ‘a fish to open me’ sentence (‘rttbbf’), I was quite hopeful with this second option as I remembered there were a few ‘b’s in it and the number combination had a few 2s which I’d hoped meant the letter ‘b’. Oh dear, I fear I am losing my mind over this book and becoming as obsessed as the Twyford Coders and the Masqueraders! I also keep flicking back in the book to check things and am making loads of notes. I just hope all my hard work is rewarded and the book is as good at the end as it has been throughout.
Steve and Lucy ponder why Twyford had set these clues to potentially reveal a secret and why she couldn’t just tell people outright or just make sure the secret was never discovered. Hmmm,I think this is a good point. They wonder if it’s something that Twyford couldn’t say for fear of her life but felt that people should know. Lucy gives Steve her keys to the gym so he can get a shower and sleep there. He re-reads Devil’s Island and thinks he’s found another acrostic containing the words ‘revenge’ and ‘revolution’ and ‘enterprise’ and ‘venture’ and others. Hmmm, I think the extract Steve reads gives good suitable acrostic words but there’s not the ‘cat’ key word in the extract, however the passage in the book makes little sense and sounds contrived in order to force certain words into it so it’s tempting to think it contains some secret message but perhaps with another key word used. Steve is also frequently checking he’s not being followed, he also starts thinking about the green bus again where he first got the book and thinking that he’s sure there was no-one on the bus, and he starts to worry he is imagining things and losing his mind.
Lucy contacts Steve saying she thinks she’s seen the letters N and W between the dartboards on the photo, so she thinks these may be North and West and the numbers may be latitude and longitude coordinates. She thinks these coordinates could match locations she’s found that all relate to banks, one being a wine bar called The Bank in Wrexham, one a now derelict building that used to be a bank in Liverpool, and one on the Ivory Coast in West Africa which is a money wiring service. Hmmm, I think this seems very complicated for Twyford to do bearing in mind she wouldn’t have had Google and would only have had paper maps to look at, and I wish we could have copies of this photo of Twyford and the possible dartboards and the illustrations that make a map of Dorset, it’s so frustrating to have them described but not to be able to see them.
Steve receives a phone call from the Jobcentre saying he has received £1000 towards his housing, so he says he’ll use this to pay for petrol for them both to go to Wrexham and Liverpool. Hmmm, I’m a bit worried that the phone call wasn’t from the Jobcentre at all and was just someone trailing Steve, particularly as he said himself that in the past when he wanted to trace people who were hiding he pretended they’d come into some money to get them to answer their phone and meet him, so is this what has happened here. Lucy deciphers Steve’s revolution/adventure extract giving a slightly different combination of words, but it still makes little sense.
At the wine bar in Wrexham, there is a fish symbol in the gents and ladies toilets which matches the symbol in Rushton tunnel and on the memorial there and on the cover of the book. Steve is approached by two men in the gents toilets at the Wrexham bar, he is now convinced that the housing money phone call was fake and was a way to make him turn up at the Jobcentre so they could follow him, Steve is convinced these men are trying to stop him cracking the Code. I notice that the men call him Smithy though, so are they something to do with the old Harrison gang, Steve has mentioned again and again in the transcript his days in the Harrison gang, is this because this whole story ties up with his past somehow. Steve and Lucy find the former bank in Liverpool, Martin’s Bank, there is a blue plaque saying London’s gold was stored here during the war. Steve begins wondering if the Code leads to a portal in time so people can go back to the time when the gold was stored in the Liverpool bank. Lucy ridicules this idea. Steve keeps thinking about it though, tempted by the thought he could go back in time and live his life again. Hmmm, I’m beginning to wonder if Steve is losing it a bit, or holding onto the Code thing as a crutch. Lucy has found out that Twyford’s husband was called Edward Barnes, that he left his first wife for Twyford, and that the most troublesome child in the Six series of books is named after Edward Barnes. Lucy finds out that the movement of the gold from London to Liverpool and then to Canada was called Operation Fish. Omg, the fish connection!! Lucy thinks the choice of the fish name comes from ‘goldfish’, she then remembers Goldtop Hill which is another connection with gold, she then realises the acrostic ‘a fish to open me’ makes, with the next letter ‘r’ added from the acrostic, an anagram of Operation Fish. Eeek, I’m so excited by this! Lucy and Steve begin to wonder if the gold was stolen when it was in Canada or on its way back to England, they think those in authority wouldn’t have admitted the loss due to the damage to morale. They think a drain cover outside the bank, right below the blue plaque, is possibly the vault the gold was lowered into, so they decide to come back at dark to try and enter it. They get the drain cover off and enter it, they find a fish painted on the wall but it has been almost completely painted over by a swastika. They think this is what Twyford and her husband were trying to communicate through the Code, that the country’s gold was stolen by the Germans. Lucy searches on google for fish symbols and finds the Greek word that is an acrostic for Jesus Christ and was used as a secret symbol for Christians when they were persecuted. Eeek, this is what I found! Steve shows her the wallet he found in Rushton tunnel, she reads Werner Richter’s name in the wallet and finds on google that he was a German major declared missing in action and presumed killed on an operation. Lucy begins to think the gold never reached Martin’s Bank, but was hidden in Rushton tunnel for nine months, with the acrostic about Rushton tunnel and nine moons meaning nine months, they wonder if it was hidden there before or after it was stolen and how Twyford knew about it. I am thinking this Operation Fish is sounding more and more like something Steve’s old Harrison gang could have planned and tried to pull off, I am wondering again if Steve knows more than he’s telling us, or that he’s unaware of it but his past is catching up with him, but if he’s unaware of it then there are some huge coincidences in him becoming involved. I’m also back to thinking about the bus where he found the book, I was thinking the bus could have been the transport for the gold and the book was left on it to guide the way, but of course Steve discovered the book years after Operation Fish had happened.
Steve has stolen money off someone at the gym. I presume this is the man he suspected was a drug dealer, it sounds like he hit him to steal the money, I know this was Steve’s life before but I’m a bit disappointed he’s gone back to this way of violence again. He realises he now can’t go back to stay at the gym. He decides to go to his brother’s and get the Miss Iles’ book, but when he turns up there he sees that Colin has been beaten and Colin uses a code they devised when younger in order to warn each other of trouble, this code being to speak to the other as if they’re from the council. Steve sneaks around the back of the flat and climbs in, he can hear voices, he says there were two men in the flat, and they call him Smithy. Hmmm, I’m again wondering if they’re from his former Harrison gang. They want the key to the Twyford Code and threaten to force Steve to hand it over by hurting Colin. So Steve kills Colin! Omg, I didn’t see that coming!!! Steve says he did this in order to save Colin from being hurt by the men and that it was better for Colin to be killed quickly than to suffer at their hands, but he also admits to a huge wave of anger at Colin for killing their dad and how this caused them to be poor and him to grow up half-starved and to fall in with the Harrison gang, and he says he thinks Colin had expected him to kill him for years. I’m trying to remember if Steve had told anyone that the book was at Colin’s. I’m also bizarrely beginning to wonder if these men who Steve says were in Colin’s flat and were in the gents at the pub in Wrexham don’t actually exist, if it is actually just Steve, like he does something violent but it’s like a split personality thing, he ‘sees’ these men but they’re actually another version of him, a past version, or was one of the Harrison gang’s jobs to steal this gold and they failed and Steve was arrested and this is why he has been obsessed with Miss Iles and the book while in jail, as he wants to finish what they started.
When Steve looks at the book, it still has Miss Iles’ notes written in it and bits of paper tucked between the pages, there is also a note from Mr Wilson saying ‘Miss Iles sends this book to you. She tells me to say sorry on her behalf’. Hmmm, I’m wondering sorry for what, for the danger she might be bringing him by getting involved in this, by the obsession it could create in him. I guess though that this implies she did come back from the Bournemouth trip, in order to be able to ask Mr Wilson to deliver the book, or could it be that the note isn’t from Miss Iles at all as it is typewritten. I’d love to see the notes she wrote in the book. He finds the piece of paper Miss Iles waved infront of his face telling him it had her name on it, the note is in German and has Werner Richter’s name on it. Hmmm, I’m wondering if Miss Iles had some connection with this German, or did this name confirm her idea that the Code in the book relates to treasure stolen by the Germans so she claimed the book as her own, or did she just say it had her name on it to justify to Steve that she wasn’t going to return it to him.
Lucy tells Steve that she has bought a modern copy of the Goldtop Hill book which is vastly different to the original, it still has acrostics but they are different and give new messages. Oooh, that’s intriguing. She says the ‘revenge’ ‘revolution’ ‘enterprise’ passage that Steve found and which made little sense and didn’t have the ‘cat’ clue, now makes sense as the ships involved in Operation Fish were called HMS Emerald and HMS Revenge and HMS Revolution and HMS Bonadventure. Oooh, this is exciting! Lucy suggests that Twyford knew through her husband that the gold had been stolen and there was a cover-up to conceal this, and that Twyford felt people should know but couldn’t compromise her husband or risk putting themselves in danger so she put the codes in her books. Steve suggests Twyford could have been involved in the theft.
Steve tells Nathan that he now has Miss Iles’ book and asks for his help but says it could be dangerous. Nathan refuses to be further involved. Steve therefore decides to get Lucy further involved, though he doesn’t like to put her in danger. Lucy reads a passage from Twyford’s original book published in 1939, the code between the ‘cat’ keys is ‘tss blyth spirit to palmers lane and wait’. Eeek, I never stop being excited and fascinated by these acrostics! Lucy says there is a River Blyth which is crossed by a Palmers Lane near Southwold in Suffolk, she thinks a small boat perhaps went there doing something connected with Operation Fish. She then reads the same passage from a new version of the book which has been heavily altered in order to be more politically correct, it still has the ‘cat’ keys but she says the acrostic method has changed and it is no longer the first letter of each word between the ‘cat’ keys but is now the first letter of the first word then the second letter of the second word then the third letter of the third word, etc. Lucy says you return to the first letter of each word after 4 and 6 and 5 and 1, so the acrostic then reads ‘move made fish safe’. Omg, how did she discover this, I’m confused by this new acrostic, the code goes back to the first letter a few times and then begins the count again to second letter and third letter so how would you know which letter to pick, is this where the dartboard numbers come in, do they perhaps show the pattern of which numbered letters to use, although I guess we’ve established the dartboard numbers were map coordinates so I should give up now trying to fit them somewhere else. Lucy also says the code changes with each edition of the book published so she thinks the publisher must be in on this. Tee hee, I’m thinking it’s certainly a good way to keep a book consistently in print!
Steve and Lucy go to the publisher, pretending to be a children’s artist and agent, and discover the text is supplied by Twyford’s estate, Lucy and Steve think the estate don’t know who is moving and collecting the gold and this is in order to protect all of them, so the clues are put in the books rather than told directly to the people moving and collecting it. Lucy wonders why the person with so much gold at his disposal doesn’t just keep it for himself. Hmmm, I wonder again if Steve has been involved from the start but he was out of things when in jail and also can’t read that well to follow the clues independently.
Lucy gets Steve drunk and asks him to read a passage from the book, it turns out that when Steve is relaxed enough, such as caused by drink, he sees words in a different way, he reads out words from the book about ‘our yellow fish’ but Lucy couldn’t see these words at all and there is no ‘cat’ key and it also contains an anagram. She says these words are meant to only be seen by someone with the key, the key for this sentence being 2 and 2 and 3 and 1 and 2 and 5 and 2 meaning you take the second letter from the first word, the second letter from the second word, etc. She says there is no key written down, that Steve is the key himself. I’m thoroughly confused now, this is blowing my mind a bit, how are we supposed to guess things if there is no key and we can’t see the text the way Steve sees it. Lucy says the note Steve found with Werner Richter on says in German ‘Deliver to Werner Richter’ so she thinks Twyford and her husband were spies and passed books containing secret codes from MI6 to British agents deep undercover in Germany, using her cover of reading books to German children. Lucy thinks that at some point Twyford’s mission was discovered so the message ‘our yellow fish’ and ‘you will not find the fish’ is a message of defiance to the Germans. Lucy finds a photo of Twyford and her husband on the steps of University College of London, which was a covert intelligence base during the war and MI6 were based there. Lucy says she used to study at this university and can get them in there to speak to someone. She goes there and speaks to a Professor Scott who used to talk about the university’s role in the war as his father was involved with MI6 there, she pretends to be someone called Lila as she knows the professor propositioned Lila and hopes reminding him of this will blackmail him into helping her, she is able to look in his father’s diaries and there is a mention of the Hortons and that they were inconsolable after a breach but that they had a plan to save fish. Hmmm, I’m remembering the Hortons were the characters from Twyford books, so is this the father’s code for them in his diary.
Steve is waiting outside while Lucy speaks to the professor, he hears a voice whisper Smithy and runs but they catch him and pull him into a basement, they say they know he has ‘it’ and that it belongs to them, he tells them they don’t want it and that it’s cursed. Someone comes, so they hit Steve and knock him unconscious. He comes to, and finds Lucy and tells her he fell over.
Steve then suggests to Lucy that they see Rosemary Wintle, the expert on Twyford that he met at the university previously. They meet her, and Steve tells Wintle they know that Twyford was a spy during the war and hid messages in her books about Operation Fish. Wintle says Operation Fish was a hoax, that the only real thing about it was the boxes with a fish clasp made for the sailors who had supposedly completed the mission. Oooh, I’m thinking this must be one of the boxes Steve found at Twyford’s cottage. Wintle says the references that Twyford put in her books were to convince the Germans that there was an opportunity to steal England’s gold, and double agents passed the books to German intelligence saying that they contained messages from MI6 to spies working undercover in the Reich, that this all happened because Twyford originally was a spy and was captured in Germany by Werner Richter and in order to save her life she made up a story about England’s gold being transferred to Canada with Operation Fish and convinced him she wanted to switch sides and that she’d divert the gold to him and he could then ship it to Germany, and he agreed and released her. She and her husband decided to use this hoax to their advantage so they brought Richter to England in secret and she directed him to a small boat and said she would collect him there, so this is the Blyth Spirit to Palmers Lane reference, Twyford drove Richter to Martin’s Bank and convinced him that the gold will be stored there, they put a few bars of gold in the vault to convince him saying the other bars had been transported already, they had previously painted a fish on the wall which was a symbol they had previously seen in a Wrexham bank where they met to plan the hoax and thought would be suitable to use, and the paint can was still there so Richter painted a swastika over it. Wintle said Richter then reported back to Germany that it all seemed genuine so Germany planned to send a convoy of ships to collect the gold, and the German ships were then destroyed by the English. Twyford then took Richter to the tunnel in Dorset where the gold was really being held and shot him and his body sank into the mud. Wintle said Richter had used a huge typewriter to communicate with Germany, that Twyford took this typewriter to Bletchley Park and they then discovered the Enigma code which helped England win the war, and after the war the English officials went to move the gold from Rushton tunnel and return it to the Bank of England but the gold was gone. Wintle said that Barnes told the authorities that it wasn’t technically stolen and was safe and that the clues to its whereabouts would be released eventually, but Twyford and her husband died before releasing the clues. Wintle says it doesn’t appear that the Twyfords ever did anything with the gold bars, as they had never turned up and the Twyfords never seemed to have made expensive purchases and the coastlines had been tightly monitored so the authorities knew they’d not shipped it abroad. Wintle says she thinks they took the gold because they felt betrayed or used, and says the Twyfords were never killed or arrested for the theft as if they had died then the secret whereabouts of the gold would have been lost forever and if they had been arrested then the English people’s love and pride in the morale-boosting story of Operation Fish would have been destroyed and the authorities would have had to admit to the country that the gold had been lost. Wintle says the clue to the location of the gold is in the books but that no-one has the key.
Steve and Lucy remind Wintle that someone knows where the gold is, as the new text in the books is supplied by someone as it is always on the move. They ask Wintle why she has trusted them with this information, then the two men screech up in a van, grab Steve and tie him up with a bag over his head, throw him in the van and drive off. The van drives for a while but is then rammed by another vehicle driven by Paul who rescues Steve, as Nathan had traced Steve’s phone and got concerned when the signal was lost when Lucy went into the university so sent Paul to investigate who saw the men bundle Steve into a van and then rescued him. Paul takes Steve to Rushton airbase, and Nathan and Michelle and Donna are also there. They go to the trapdoor with Steve, and start crying and holding each other saying that Steve needs closure. The story then keeps skipping between this story at Rushton airbase, and the story of the betrayal of Steve by the Harrison gang from his youth and that his boss Andy had planned to kill Steve but due to confusion at the scene had actually killed his own brother instead and Steve escaped and took all the stolen goods with him which included bars of gold, Steve then later gave himself up to the police and was imprisoned for the murder of Andy’s brother. I’m kind of wishing we could just stick with this Twyford Code story as that’s the one which interests me more, but I’m guessing the two are related, particularly as they both seem to include gold bars.
Nathan and Michelle and Donna tell Steve that on the school trip, after he went back to the minibus looking for food, they were playing in the grass at the airfield and saw Miss Iles standing looking at something on the ground, which they later realised was the open trapdoor, they had crept up and pushed her and she fell down into the tunnel with the trapdoor lid falling shut, that they couldn’t get the lid open again and were scared at being blamed so they returned to the bus and Paul drove them home, and they never told Steve. I’m a bit surprised at this turn of events, is this really what happened, how come Donna went down into that tunnel with Steve, wasn’t she worried about finding Miss Iles body down there, I’m getting a bit worried this whole story is falling to pieces here and getting overly complicated and I’m worried that I’m going to be disappointed at the end. I’m also wondering why Steve is patiently listening to this tale instead of being worried about what has happened to Lucy.
Steve says goodbye to the others, they all seem to agree that closure has now been gained and it’s all over and they won’t see each other again. Steve meets Lucy, and she just talks about him going off with his friends. I’m confused now, why wasn’t she concerned that he was bundled into a van with a bag over his head, this is all getting very odd. Lucy says Wintle is the daughter of Twyford’s husband Barnes and his first wife, and that she is part of the group that edits the text for the reprints of Twyford’s books, so Lucy presumes Wintle knows where the gold is and she says Wintle lives in an expensive house on Mayfair. Steve then seems to see someone approaching, he says it’s not time and quickly hands his phone to Lucy and disappears. I’m even more confused now, is this Andy from the Harrison gang, but if he’s after Steve for the goods Steve took from the robbery then why didn’t they get him while he was in prison, and I also don’t really understand why Steve gave himself up to the police to be accused of murder when he was innocent of that, and what did Steve do with the proceeds of the robbery, and also Wintle seemed to know the men who took Steve so why would Wintle let Lucy go knowing that Lucy knows all about Wintle.
Lucy begins recording transcripts on Steve’s phone, she says Steve has been gone for a month and hasn’t been in touch with her. She has now listened to all of Steve’s transcripts so knows his life story, she’s tried to locate his son at Brunel University but as she doesn’t know his name she’s been unsuccessful in this, and she is currently trying to find Maxine the probation officer. Lucy says she has listened to Steve’s telling of the meeting with Wintle, but she remembers it as them chatting with Wintle and then Paul arriving saying he’s come to take Steve to the rest of their friends and they then leave together, so she doesn’t understand why Steve has recorded it as him being bundled into a van. I did have my doubts as to Steve’s reliability as a narrator, is lots of what he’s said not actually true, and I’m also confused as looking back at the Wintle section it is a recording of three voices, not just Steve’s summary afterwards, and Lucy asks if Steve knows the men who are approaching and then Wintle’s voice says she doesn’t need to worry about trusting Steve and Lucy with the information as these men will ensure they’re not there much longer, so what is happening, is Steve’s telling things correctly or Lucy.
Lucy then says she was ambushed by the men as she left the park, and she is being kept somewhere in the dark as the men think Steve will show himself rather than allow them to hurt her. Lucy has had time to think over all of Steve’s recordings and thinks he hid the gold for his son to find and use, that Steve has now disappeared and won’t be seen again. As she is recording this into Steve’s phone, someone seems to come in so she switches off the recording. This last recording of hers is July 2019.
It is now November 2021. Eeek, I’m concerned that this is a long time that has passed. Professor Mansfield is Steve’s son. Oooh, I never thought of that as a possibility! Mansfield is leaving a voicemail responding to Inspector Waliso, after he’s listened to the transcripts the inspector sent him, Mansfield is asking who the missing person is and whether this is his father or Lucy, and is concerned about his father’s whereabouts. I think again Waliso must be an anagram, what can it be though?
Mansfield leaves another voicemail for Waliso in December, he says he has verified various bits of information in Steve’s transcripts, and that Steve was involved with a London gang and was jailed for 11 years for murder and the FSBC robbery. Mansfield says he has also looked up Operation Fish and the successful transfer of England’s gold to Canada during the war, he’s ordered copies of Twyford’s books to read, he’s found on the internet the photo of Twyford at her desk with her fingers pointing towards the fish-clasp box and can see the Kandinsky-inspired prints behind her but can’t zoom in closely enough to see the dartboard numbers Steve talks about, he’s found a picture of Twyford and her husband on the steps of the UCL, and a photo of Twyford reading to children in Germany during the war, and he’s researched Werner Richter and found he is listed as missing in action, he’s verified that the plaque outside Martin’s Bank in Liverpool is there, as is the memorial stone at RAF Tarrent Rushton, and that the map coordinates lead to three places connected with former banks in Wrexham and Liverpool and West Africa. Mansfield says, however, that he can’t find any reference to the Twyford Code or any chatrooms relating to it, and there is also no information about a Miss Iles going missing.
Mansfield seeks out Colin and finds he is alive, Colin says Steve actually kicked the tv and then pretended to take a little leather bag from the back of the tv but that he actually took this bag from his pocket and gave this to the men who then left. Colin said Steve knew he used to hide things in the back of the tv. Colin says Steve then stayed with him for a couple of days and then told Colin that he’d never see him again. Mansfield says Colin has a posh cinema system in the house that he says was delivered to him. I’m wondering now if Steve is pretending to be Colin so as to hide.
Mansfield meets Nathan who says he has only met Steve once since his release from prison and that the group didn’t go to Dorset in 2019. Mansfield looks in Nathan’s garage and there is no office or Twyford Code information. He asks Nathan about the Twyford Code, and Nathan says he’s never heard of it. He asks Nathan about Miss Iles, and Nathan says she was the best teacher they had and they were sad when she left but they were then taught by Mr Wilson. Mansfield sees a rusty Volvo in Nathan’s garage, Nathan says it isn’t his but he is looking after it for a friend. Oooh, I wonder if this is Steve’s car? Mansfield notes that Nathan has a very expensive car on the drive and mentions that they are shortly going on a six week holiday to the Caribbean, Mansfield remembers that Steve recorded in the transcripts that this car and holiday were Nathan’s aspirations. Ooooh, I’m wondering if Steve has sent money to Nathan for him to buy these things, and told him to keep quiet about all that happened, I’m thinking that Nathan’s voice was recorded on the transcript so Steve must have met with him, or is it actually someone else’s voice.
Mansfield asks the inspector if he can hear the audio files for himself, not just read the transcripts provided, but there is no reply from the inspector.
Mansfield discovers that Andy, the boss from the Harrison gang, was arrested last year trying to sell a diamond, Mansfield thinks the bag that Steve passed to the two men in Colin’s flat, presumably the boss Andy and his son, contained some of the diamonds from the robbery. Mansfield also discovers that a mobile mechanic had reported seeing a gun in Andy’s garage and the gun was found to be the one that killed Andy’s brother during the robbery, and a gold bar was found linking Andy to the FSBC robbery. Mansfield also discovers that the police inspector who arrested Andy was called Donna Cole. Ooooh, so was the mechanic actually Steve who then planted the gun and gold bar?
Mansfield spots that Waliso is an anagram of ‘is awol’. Eeek, I knew there must be something in that name! Mansfield tries to find Donna and Paul and Michelle and Lucy but has no luck. He remembers that Steve said he was good at imitating voices and begins to wonder if Steve made up the others on the transcript, including Lucy, and then wonders if it was actually Steve trapped in the dark place at the end rather than Lucy.
It is now January 2022. Inspector Waliso leaves a voicemail for Mansfield, he says Mansfield is not to try and contact anyone mentioned in the recordings as he would compromise several ongoing investigations, that he can’t send Mansfield the phone or audio files as they are evidence in an active case. He confirms that the missing person is Steve, but says that the trail has gone cold and is due to be scaled down. He confirms there was no such person as Lucy and that it was Steve impersonating a female voice. He says he hopes that Mansfield can guess at what Steve was following, as it was stated in the final audio file that Steve wasn’t following the Twyford Code, that there is nothing online about the Twyford Code and that the whole thing seems to have been made up by Steve. He therefore wonders if Mansfield, being a professor of Maths, could spot any hidden messages in the text of what Steve was actually trying to communicate. He says they are at the moment investigating Miss Iles’ disappearance, but asks Mansfield not to contact her family.
Mansfield leaves another voicemail on Inspector’s Waliso’s phone, he apologises but says he had already tried to find out more about Miss Iles and found a previous pupil praising her classes in 1994 so wonders if she did actually survive, and that someone else says he saw her in a care home in Sussex last year. Mansfield finds Miss Iles at the care home and introduces himself as Steve’s son and she happily reminisces about Steve. He asks her about the school trip to Dorset, she says Steve had brought a book to class that he had found and that he found this book on a regular bus, not the green bus from his transcript, she says she knew the Twyford books were banned but she was amazed at the effect on the children when she read the book to them as they were interested and engaged for the first time, so they read all the books together and looked at photos of Twyford in her cottage and she decided to take them to the cottage, she says Steve broke into the cottage but she loved seeing them all explore and show such interest. She says she then took them to a heath and they all enjoyed playing in a green and natural location, having only grown up in high-rise flats, and that this was particularly so for Steve who she was concerned about as having no parents and not being well looked after by his brother. She says she then told the children she was taking a job in a girls’ school and would be leaving, and they were all very upset and angry, particularly Steve. She says she drove them home but had to stop several times due to how upset Steve was and how upset the other children were at seeing Steve so upset. She says she realised several months later that she still had Steve’s book so sent it to Mr Wilson with a note asking him to return it to Steve. Mansfield asks her about the Twyford Code and she seems delighted that Steve ‘did it’, she says that it was all her idea and they were the Super Six. Mansfield thinks Steve must have been setting a code in his audio files, but he wonders why Steve felt he had to hide things in a code and not just tell him what he needed to share.
In the next voicemail from Inspector Waliso, the language has changed and the inspector is saying ‘don’t’ rather than ‘doesn’t’ and he seems keen to emphasise Steve’s love for his son and his pride in him, he also says Steve pretended that the transcript was for someone called Maxine but that Mansfield’s first name is Max and his middle name is Ian, so the transcript is actually for Mansfield. He urges Mansfield to try and solve it, saying he doesn’t have to do it now but can do it later with his children, and there is a prize at the end, and that the transcripts hold all the clues and information he needs to solve it. Hmmm, I’m wondering if there are acrostics within Steve’s transcripts, and I’m thinking the inspector is actually Steve, but I’m also wondering why Mansfield hasn’t contacted police stations before now asking for Inspector Waliso, bearing in mind his concern that his father is missing.
Mansfield leaves a voicemail for Inspector Waliso saying he suspects that Steve never left South London during all these recordings, that Steve asked Nathan and Donna and Michelle for help but that he told them all different things, that he told Donna he was recording a series of adventure stories for his grandchildren which is why she pretended in the recordings to have travelled to Rushton tunnel with him, that Nathan did the internet research for Steve, and that all the recordings are just the friends acting which is why the computer software was used in order to give a transcript rather than the actual audio files, as the human ear would pick up pretend voices and the fact they weren’t in the locations they were supposed to be in, and that many of the situations in the transcripts were taken from books such as Lord of the Flies and other books Steve had read in prison, Mansfield says he thinks the only true bits of the transcript are when Andy and his son catch up with Steve and he then has to improvise. Mansfield also realises that as he had refused to speak with his father when he was released from prison, Steve then had to find another way of communicating his message so created this transcript in order to tell his son about his life and to give him the clues to where the gold from the FSBC robbery is hidden.
Mansfield solves the acrostics Steve had hidden in his transcripts, using ‘mustard’ as the key word, and the word ‘fish’ meaning ‘gold’ and the times within the transcript relating to map coordinates of where the gold from the robbery is buried and that these are in various churchyard graves in villages called Twyford.
At the end of the book, it turns out that the Twyford Code was all made up by Steve and Miss Iles, he had gone to her when he was stuck with the gold from the robbery and she helped Steve come up with all the acrostics for the Twyford Code story and stored Steve’s Volvo for him with some of the gold inside so he could use this when he got out of prison. Paul helped Steve frame Andy and his son with the gun and gold bar, as he is a mechanic. Donna was a police officer employed to keep tabs on Steve when he was let out of prison and to check he didn’t have the gold from the FSBC robbery, she helped him with the Twyford Code story thinking it was for Steve’s grandchildren, and arrested Andy when the gun and diamonds and gold were planted. Nathan did all the research for Steve on things like Operation Fish, and the anagrams and acrostics within Steve’s transcript. Steve rewarded all of them for their help, and then disappeared and is now living in Michelle’s Greek villa having had plastic surgery by her husband to change his appearance.
Phew! I have to admit though, I couldn’t be bothered to look back in Steve’s transcripts to work out the acrostics, after working so hard with the Twyford Code acrostics and then feeling all my efforts had been wasted, as all my joy and enthusiasm from it was gone. I think on reflection I would have preferred either the book to be solely about the Twyford Code and that Miss Iles had cracked the code and was living in splendour, or solely about Steve trying to escape Andy and the reader discovering the acrostics in the transcripts along with Mansfield. However, I have to remind myself that I did thoroughly thoroughly enjoy the book just until the last few pages and the realisation that the Twyford Code had all been a complete waste of my time, and although it is frustrating thinking of the time I spent speculating on it all, I guess I should try and focus on the absolute sheer enjoyment I had reading it, even though it was later proved pointless. But I am so very disappointed that the Twyford Code was all made up, it was such a wonderful story! And I admire the author’s aim in helping to promote awareness of prisoners’ illiteracy and the importance of providing books for them to read.
Steve/the author has built up a great mystery with fantastic clues, I’m thinking particularly of the map of Dorset made up of illustrations from the books that he finds in the box indicated to him by Twyford’s pointed fingers in the photo at the cottage, and the painting on the wall in the same photo that resembles dartboard numbers which then related to map references of bank connections. I’m just so disappointed it’s all pointless and actually means nothing after I spent so long pondering the significance of it all. I guess the false map references are supposed to prompt Mansfield to look for similar clues of map references in Steve’s transcript, so it’s not wasted from Steve’s point of view. But I remember I was suspicious with the map references of bank connections as I thought Twyford would only have had maps to use, not google as Steve had, I think now this was a sign that more modern technology had been used for these clues.
I think I can also feel quite pleased with the suspicions I had of Steve as a narrator, I kept having vague doubts about whether he was to be trusted with what he was saying, and obviously that was the case as all of it was untrue! I am also quite pleased at my frustrations with the limitations I’d recognised with the transcript format, being that it didn’t give the reader details of where people moved to and what they did, well now I can see why the author chose this format and the restrictions it provides, as no-one actually moved anywhere!
So I’m going back over my notes now trying to make sense of it all. And part of me feels this is pointless as what I thought was the story (the Twyford Code and the acrostics and clues and Operation Fish and the missing gold, and Miss Iles’ disappearance in connection with this), was all made up by Steve, but another part of me feels I have invested so much time in the Twyford Code that I can’t quite let it go yet! So there were two stories that Steve made up, one being the code in the Twyford books giving the location of the gold hidden during the war, and the second being this secret aim the friends all had in order to conceal from Steve that they pushed Miss Iles into the tunnel. Part of me wonders if two made-up stories are a bit much. And there were many things in the book that intrigued me and that I was waiting for answers to, so I wanted to look back at those:
So the Super Six books were actually written by Edith Twyford (well, when I say ‘actually written’ I don’t mean in the real world, I mean Steve didn’t make up the fact that the books were written by Twyford) but I’m presuming the books didn’t actually contain any acrostics or clues – so were the things that Steve describes about the books true but just have no significance, such as on the front cover one child always has a red item of clothing on?
Miss Iles finding the piece of paper in the book when reading it in class and this piece of paper supposedly reading ‘Deliver to Alice Iles’, which so fascinated me – so there was no such piece of paper but Steve included this in order to show how Miss Iles supposedly got engrossed with the Twyford Code?
Paul and Michelle’s attitude at the beginning of Steve’s investigation (Paul being unfriendly and acting suspiciously, and Michelle trying to grab Steve’s phone when she realised he is recording the conversation), I presume these things didn’t happen as all of them were actually really helping Steve in the creation of the transcript for his son – so were these suspicious attitudes put in by Steve to add credence to the made-up story of them pushing Miss Iles into the tunnel and them wanting to conceal this?
Donna telling Steve at the beginning that she thought Miss Iles was kidnapped and killed – so the real Donna says this for Steve’s transcript thinking she is providing a fictional story for Steve’s grandkids?
The things that Steve can’t seem to remember, such as reading the book out to the class, him breaking into Twyford’s cottage, how they got back on the bus from Bournemouth – so why did Steve add these made-up things and then pretend not to remember them, was it all to imply doubt and sinister happenings and questions about who was telling the truth?
Mr Wilson pressing the panic alarm when Steve mentions the Twyford Code, I presume all this was made up and there was no interview with Mr Wilson – so was this included just to add further credence to the pretended hint of sinister happenings with the book?
The revelation that Colin killed their dad in revenge for dad killing their mum – so was that all true, and if so then how is it relevant to Steve wanting to lead Mansfield to the gold, why include it at all or was it to demonstrate to Mansfield the hard life that Steve had had and why he turned out as he did?
Colin being killed by Steve, so this didn’t actually happen and Colin was alive at the end – so why include it, was it just to try and prevent Mansfield from seeking out Colin and asking him questions about Steve, or was it because Andy and his son appeared when Steve was recording this section on his own so he had to build a story to explain why their voices were on the recording? But then couldn’t Steve just go back and edit the recording and delete Andy and his son being there?
The whole wonderful exciting Rushton tunnel bit with Steve and Donna finding the memorial stone that resembled the glider on the front cover of the Twyford book, and the wallet with the German name, and the fish painted on the wall in the tunnel with its scales matching the lines of the glider from the book and the memorial stone, and the fish’s tail pointing to the trapdoor lid, all of this was so exciting to read, I’m so disappointed this was all made up too – so (I am confused here) was this actually Steve being shut in somewhere else by Andy and his son, and his injuries from the trapdoor were actually from being beaten by them, and as some of the action of this beating was recorded on the transcript Steve had to therefore give an explanation for it on the transcript so invented them being shut in the tunnel?
The bits of transcripts that are recorded phone calls that Steve didn’t mean to record and tried to end quickly, and the bits where Andy and his son got him that were recorded on the transcript and Steve then had to make elaborate stories around – so why didn’t he just delete these bits out of the typed transcript afterwards even if he couldn’t delete them from the original recordings, surely he looked through the typed transcript before sending it to his son in order to check all his clues were there, the transcript was presumably on a Word document typed up by the transcription software so couldn’t Steve delete whatever passages he wished?
The Twyford Code being altered in each publication of the books in order to imply the gold is being continually moved – so why include this extra bit of complication, wouldn’t it just have been enough to use the original made-up story of Operation Fish in order to provide clues to Mansfield in the transcript, was this extra bit necessary?
Steve going to jail for 11 years for a murder he didn’t commit – so why did he give himself up and serve this sentence, was it to let the fuss all die down and to try to convince the police he wasn’t part of the robbery so he could then leave the country and live off the proceeds after he comes out of prison and leave the gold for his son? But he’s lost 11 years of his life.
Steve wanting to deflect attention from his hidden gold bars from the robbery by distracting people with the Twyford Code – so then why have the Twyford Code be about hunting gold bars which could then lead any listeners to suspect a link with the gold bars from the robbery, surely it would have made sense to have the Code be about seeking something totally different from gold bars?
Steve putting on a female voice and pretended to be Lucy’s voice and the only true bits of the transcript being when Andy and his son caught up with him – so why did Steve include all that complicated section with Lucy speaking to the professor and Steve being jumped on and thrown down a cellar and then ‘Lucy’ asking Steve where he had disappeared to as he wasn’t there waiting for her when she came out, and the bit with ‘Lucy’ saying Steve’s friends arrived for him during the conversation with Wintle rather than Steve being bundled in a car, wasn’t all that just overly complicated and unnecessary?
So the first bit of the book that is true (well, true within this story) is when Mansfield visits Miss Iles – so it’s true that Steve brought a Twyford book to Miss Iles and she read the story to the class and took them to Twyford’s cottage and then left that teaching job for another, and then later devised the Twyford Code with Steve in order to conceal a message for Mansfield?
And I guess I should let it all go now, there was no Twyford Code and I should stop thinking about acrostics and children’s books. But I did thoroughly enjoy my time in this world!
But but but… I’m wondering about Miss Iles, did she actually make notes in Steve’s book and follow a trail to the gold from Operation Fish by using acrostics Twyford had put in her books, is this how she could afford to live in that grand house, as this surely wasn’t funded by Steve as she had been there 40 years so that was way before Steve committed his crime and went to her with the gold from the robbery so her house can’t be funded from any gold Steve gave her from the robbery, the timing seems to fit more with Steve being a child and finding the book and her then leaving the school. And her house has a stained glass window with a fish design in it. And her final words to Mansfield are an acrostic, aren’t they, spelling ‘the twyford code is alive today’!!! So did she find the gold, either by following the Twyford Code or actually being pushed into Rushton tunnel and finding a couple of gold bars left there from when Twyford and her husband hid them, and lived off the proceeds? Omg, I so very very much hope she did! But then why would Steve give away Miss Iles’ secret, particularly as he seems to have kept her name the same so she could therefore easily be discovered. Or am I just desperately trying to hold on to the Twyford Code being real and am seeing things that are not there?! And I still hoped Miss Iles name was an anagram of ‘lies’!
And I did love the sneaky acrostic that Mansfield does at the very end of the book ‘love is brighter than gold but it is heavier’, nice to end the book in that way, emphasising the puzzle element that runs through the book.