The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett

Janice Hallett
The Twyford Code

I had such enormous fun reading this book, and spent so so so much time (too much time, probably!) 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 felt this was one of the best books I’d read for ages, the whole thing is really such an amazingly clever idea from the author, I am full of admiration for what she’s created. I can't wait to read it all over again!

The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett available on Amazon
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I had such enormous fun reading this book, and spent so so so much time (too much time, probably!) 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 felt this was one of the best books I’d read for ages, the whole thing is really such an amazingly clever idea from the author, I am full of admiration for what she’s created. I can’t wait to read it all over again!

My first thought when picking up the book was how good it sounded from the blurb on the back, a potential code hidden in a series of children’s books! I love it! I’m already thinking of the author of these children’s books as similar to Enid Blyton. 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 (my usual detective reading being 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 my heart sinks slightly again when it says the software transcript mishears and can be quirky, as I then feel apprehensive that it’ll be annoying and distracting to read and I’ll wish it wasn’t in transcript format at all, and I also 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 my imagination is fired up again wondering if the Inspector’s surname (the Inspector has written to Professor Mansfield asking for his view on the transcript) is actually an anagram as it seems a very unusual name, Waliso. And I’m wondering who Professor Mansfield is. So just from the first page alone, I’ve had a range of emotions, so this bodes well!

Then the transcript begins. So the speaker, Steve Smith, must be of working age (as he mentions potentially calling in sick), he’s been in jail, and he’s uneducated as has only just learnt to read. Steve also has a son of about middle-age (as this son’s hair is beginning to grey), but Steve has only recently learnt of his son’s existence and his son is reluctant to have his father in his life. 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. Steve is also dyslexic (which I presume explains why he prefers telling his story in transcript rather than writing or typing it). Steve also seems to be creating the transcript for somebody called Maxine but hasn’t specified who she is. I do like that Steve 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. But grrrr, I don’t really like the dialect in the book though, I know it isn’t strong dialect as it’s just words such as ‘me’ instead of ‘my’ and ‘Kos’ instead of ‘because’ but it just stops me in my tracks for a 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’ve just stepped away from the book (to get a cuppa) and was pondering the ‘missiles’ thing and wondering if it was a software transcript mishear and then 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 format is quite a clever idea if it gives the reader little puzzles like that to solve.

Steve relates that in 1983, when he was 14, he was late for school and saw a green bus approaching him. He was surprised the bus 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, but there was a book on the seat of the bus which had a cover with ‘a pencil drawing of a boy in a red jumper, watching a model plane in the sky’. He planned to sell the book as he couldn’t read it himself, but his teacher, Miss Iles, took it off him. She then said that it used to be her favourite book when she was a child, and that it was from a series featuring the Super Six, who were six children, three boys and three girls, who stayed with their aunt in the countryside every school holiday and had adventures. Miss Iles said the book 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, and the story was of the Super Six going camping and seeing something suspicious at an abandoned airfield. Miss Iles then stopped reading as she found a slip of paper between the pages, which seemed to puzzle her. After class, Steve asked for the book back, but Miss Iles asked him where he had 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. At the next class, Miss Isles finished reading the book to them, and Steve saw that 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. Ooooh, how mysterious! It all sounds very intriguing! I felt Steve’s description of the cover of the book could be important so made a point of jotting it down, and the finding of the book sounded potentially magical, although Steve doesn’t really seem like a person who magic happens to! And Miss Iles (missiles!) is mentioned, eeek, I am still so excited about that! And I’m already loving the Super Six, they sound very much like Blyton’s Adventure series, which I love and often re-read. But the paper inside the book saying Miss Iles’ name is very odd, as well as her then seeming to disappear!

Steve 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 that the book was written by Edith Twyford, and 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 was from. But Michelle tries to grab Steve’s phone when she realises he’s recording their chat. Oooh, this all sounds very odd with Paul denying he was on the school trip, even though Steve knows he was, and then storming out! And the extra information about the author Edith Twyford from Michelle is useful, although it seems like there is something suspicious with all this, with her not wanting to have her words recorded.

Steve goes to the library to find some Edith Twyford books, but they don’t have any of her books in stock. However, the librarian helps him buy a copy from eBay and he buys the book which he found as a child, called Six On Goldtop Hill. 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 University College London. She clarifies that she’s actually an expert on 20th century children’s literature, and she’s a consultant for Edith’s publisher and sometimes speaks about her in the media. 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. Wintle says Edith wrote in a particular way, simple and unchallenging with no depth or hidden meaning, and her reality borders on fantasy. She adds that Edith wrote mostly during the Second World War as she wanted to help children escape the trauma around them, and that her books were published in 42 languages. She says that the books appear dated now, and they were republished in the 70s and edited to remove the sexist and racist language. She says that Edith was accused of racism and sexism even in the 30s. I can’t help being sad that the books aren’t actively promoted now, and it makes me wonder if Enid Blyton is viewed in this way too, and I also wonder if my copies of Enid Blyton from the 80s have been similarly edited. And I am also presuming Edith is dead now. I’m also very envious of Wintle’s job as an expert on children’s literature! 

Steve reads his copy of Six On Goldtop Hill. The six children are the Hortons, Sophie, Rose, Iris, Edward, Piers, and Horatio, and they stay at Cross Keys house with their aunt. Steve can’t see any reason in the book for Miss Iles not returning from Bournemouth that day. He also thinks about his own son a lot. He tracks down Nathan Welch from Miss Iles’ class and arranges to meet with him, recording the conversation by explaining he is writing a book. Nathan seems keen to talk and remembers the school trip and he says that it’s always bothered him as it didn’t seem like an official trip. He remembers that 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, and that Miss Iles seemed to be looking for something at the cottage, 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 cottage so he waited outside. Steve doesn’t remember this cottage. 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 that someone else must have driven them home and then taken back the minibus, but he can’t remember anything himself about getting home. Nathan just presumes that Miss Iles must have returned and driven them home. He doesn’t think anyone talked to them about the trip afterwards, and he remembers that the trip happened a few days before the end of term and that Miss Iles wasn’t there at the school for the next term, so he wonders now if she was sacked for taking pupils out on an unauthorised trip and it was all hushed up. Well, I think Six On Goldtop Hill sounds like a great book to read, I wish I could get a copy, tee hee! I’m wondering why Steve can’t remember anything about the school trip though, I wonder if something dreadful happened which he since has blocked out, and the others are still too traumatised by it so say they can’t remember. Or Nathan could be making it all up?

Steve makes contact with the last member of his class, Donna Cole, but he thinks it seems almost like she was expecting him to contact her. He meets her with Nathan. She says that Miss Iles had 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, and that Miss Iles explained all this to Donna at the time in case anything happened. Donna says she thinks that Miss Iles was kidnapped and killed. Donna also believes that Edith and her husband used to know powerful people and had learned something significant which they couldn’t do anything about, so Edith put hints to what they’d learnt in her books. Donna now wonders if the secret code which Miss Iles spoke about was something to do with the Second World War, as Edith wrote so many of her books during the war, and whether her books were used 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. Ooooh, I’m loving the links to the Second World War, and how enticing thinking that there could be secret messages inside the books! But hmmm, I guess it’s wise to be cautious about what Steve is being told, I had wondered if Nathan was telling the truth, and Nathan wonders if Donna is telling the truth.

Steve remembers that Donna had said she always thought that Paul drove the bus home, but when Steve later asks Paul about this he denies it. Paul says they all fell asleep on the bus, having planned 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 until they were all on the bus and had fallen asleep. Paul tells Steve that it was him who read the book out to class the day he found it, and that Paul had just presumed that Steve made the words up as he couldn’t read, but Paul remembers that it shocked and excited Miss Iles and that she said that Steve’s brain worked differently and that he could see things others couldn’t. Steve remembers none of this. Oooh, I wonder if the children were drugged somehow to make them fall asleep, and is this why Steve can’t remember much? And it’s fascinating thinking of Steve’s brain working differently and this perhaps might have allowed him to tap into the secret code!

Steve gets more of Edith’s books, looking for possible code words or similar links, but 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. Oooh, I remember he said that the book he found on the bus had ‘a pencil drawing of a boy in a red jumper, watching a model plane in the sky’ on the cover. Oh, I wish I could see these books myself! This is getting more and more intriguing, I am loving it!

Steve visits the teacher who replaced Miss Iles, a Mr Wilson, who is now in a nursing home. Steve asks Mr Wilson if he knows anything about the Twyford Code, but Mr Wilson immediately presses a panic alarm and staff come running to help. Mr Wilson does say the words ‘very important thing now’ and ‘can’t get to it’, but staff tell Steve that he is 97 and gets very confused. Steve feels sure Mr Wilson knows something. Oooh, I wonder this too! What does he know? There is definitely some big secret with these books, even after all these many years later. I also wonder if there is significance to the children being unable to read fully? Steve can read now as an adult but can’t see anything relevant in the books now, so 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 perhaps 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 supposed to have been collected by someone else? Or is it that he’s remembered all of this wrongly, is he even 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 what happened, and is he lying to the reader, or lying 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 that they are acting oddly. It all seems quite an unusual book though (this main book, not the Super Six book) and it makes me wonder what kind of story it’s going to be. I’m also struggling a little with the transcript style too, it all feels too fast and that I don’t have time to think things through, I find I have to put the book down and give myself time to ponder, and it also makes me feel quite distant from the characters as we’re not getting their thoughts. We do have Steve’s thoughts, obviously, 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. Steve keeps mentioning his newly discovered son too and he obviously regrets not having a relationship with him earlier, and he also keeps mentioning his ties to the Harrison brothers and their illegal activities, both of which frustrates me a bit as they seem a distraction from the Edith Twyford books which is my main focus. And I’m still puzzling about who this Maxine is, who Steve is doing the recordings for, he seems to be wanting to prove something to her, I am guessing that she is his ex, though seemingly not the mother of his son. 

Steve suggests to Nathan that they visit Bournemouth again, retracing their footsteps from that day to see if it jogs their memories. When he meets Nathan on the day, he is surprised to see Michelle there too. Nathan said he told Michelle about the trip, but Steve had thought Michelle had said that she wasn’t in touch with any of the old classmates. 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 the latter, then is he imagining all of this with Edith’s book and Miss Iles? 

The three of them go to Edith’s cottage and the present owner lets them in for a fee and shows them the study where she worked. Steve recognises the window he broke in by. Steve asks the owner about the Twyford Code, and the owner says that everyone asks him about this and that people’s theories range from hidden Nazi treasure to a portal to another universe. He says people base this on the fact that there seems to be ‘a cross tick’ in the Goldtop book which reads something like ‘a fish to open me’, and the owner thinks that Edith did place 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. When they exit, Michelle and Nathan say it’s all over and 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, what did he take?! Grrr, I’m thinking again that this transcript form is so limiting as there are no details of where people move to and what they do. I’ve looked back at this chapter and the only things that Steve talks about seeing in the cottage is a photo on the wall of Edith sat at her desk with a view of the cliff through the window and with a bookcase and some paintings on the wall, he also 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 note he says that Edith told him herself where the key was, so was this something he saw in the photo? And what made Nathan and Michelle believe so readily that the code is a hoax, just from what the owner of the cottage said? Does their keenness to believe this mean anything suspicious, is there something they are concealing from Steve, or is it just him looking for conspiracies? And I find it a bit strange that Steve now does remember breaking into the cottage, with him recognising the window, I just can’t help doubting him a bit. I’m also wondering if the ‘a cross tick’ which Steve transcribes it as, is actually an acrostic, like a crossword puzzle. I’m now desperate for Steve to look in the Goldtop book at the fish reference and see exactly what it says, it’s soooo frustrating that we, the reader, can’t see the Goldtop book as well. And I’m worrying a little that if Edith had dementia then there may be no solution left from her to find, arrrggh!

Steve had taken a paper from Edith’s cottage, he found the paper in the wooden box he’d used as a step when he broke into the cottage as a child, as he’d seen from the photo of Edith that her pose seemed unnatural and her fingers pointed towards the box when it was in the room with her, so he’d then found the box in the hall cupboard. The box 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, these were stuck together at different angles so they created a totally new picture with an outline drawn around and through the image in red fountain pen, and it is the map of Dorset. Steve also says there were the numbers 5 and 3 and 2 and 4 in the photo, so he believes these are the combination to a safe. Omg, it’s a secret map of Dorset!! Ooooh, I’m loving this, it’s so exciting! I wonder how he saw those numbers though, how were they displayed in the photo? 

Steve goes to Nathan with the paper of illustrations showing the map of Dorset. Steve suggests they go back to the cottage. Steve wants to look for a safe at the cottage 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 so they need to return it to the cottage. Nathan isn’t happy that Steve has brought this dangerous map to him as he has a wife and child, unlike Steve. Steve also shares his concern that Donna isn’t answering her phone. Hmmm, I’m wondering if Nathan is the bad guy here (if there is a bad guy), although he was only a child in Miss Iles’ time, but then they all were. I wonder if Steve not sharing all his discoveries with Nathan is a sign that Steve is also suspicious of him. I did like the humour here when Steve told a horrified Nathan that he had stolen the paper and Nathan gave him ‘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’. It also says that ‘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’. It also says that ‘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 Edith’s book as being a possible code, and a fish is on the cover of the main book! Continuing with 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 Edith trying to reference something to do with religion or people facing persecution? Or am I totally off on a tangent, tee hee?! Well, even if I am off on a tangent, then it’s still extremely interesting, as are most things I read on Wikipedia. And while I’m happily off on a tangent (!), I also loved discovering that acrostics have been used in more modern times too, with James May putting one in an edition of Autocar magazine which was discovered and he was sacked (!), and several staff included acrostics in their resignation letters to Donald Trump!! Oooh, I do love Wikipedia.

Steve frequently visits Lucy at the library, they are becoming friends and she tries to help him with his phone and the internet and books, although her boss frowns at this. She says that authors often use places and characters to provide a connection between their different novels, adding that Evelyn Waugh did this. Oooh, this interests me as I have Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall on my bookshelf waiting to be read. And I do like Lucy.

Steve reads another Super Six book, which he thinks references Goldtop Hill with it mentioning a ‘big green hill…(from where) we can see five counties’ which is stated about Goldtop Hill. However, Steve had sat on a park bench with the books and accidentally left them on the bench. But when he got back to his hostel later in the day, the books had been handed in with his name on. Steve later 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, his words here seem surprisingly forceful and he seems to be implying 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, so does his words mean that this is the case? And it’s very very intriguing with the books being returned to Steve! What does this mean, was someone watching him and wanting to ensure he continued on this trail with the books? Although before they were returned to him, I was cursing him for being so stupid to leave the books there!

Lucy says she has learnt that Edith 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 were, even though she was criticised for this. She also learnt that Edith’s father was German and changed his name from Tritschler in 1915, so she spoke German and had dual nationality. Lucy shows Steve a photo on the internet of Edith, and Steve says this is the same photo he saw at the cottage and he thinks that 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, but 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 the numbers 2 and 5. Ooooh, so this is what Steve spotted in the photo of Edith at the cottage! And how exciting, we have possible number clues as well as possible word clues now!

Mr Wilson has died. He left a message for Steve saying that he gave the book to Steve’s brother but that it was meant for Steve. Steve decides he has to find his brother, Colin, in order to ask him about the book. When he goes to Colin’s flat, it is full of junk and Steve realises that Colin has a problem with hoarding. However, Colin thinks Steve has come because he has guessed Colin’s secret, and Colin then goes on to admit he killed their dad! Colin says that this was for revenge, so Steve then assumes that their dad killed their mum. Omg, I didn’t see that coming, this is all taking an unexpected turn! And I’m wondering if Mr Wilson’s death was natural, for it to happen so soon after Steve asked him about Miss Iles. 

Steve realises that he can’t talk to anyone else about his parents and what Colin told him, but he finds comfort talking into the phone and recording it, saying that he can then ‘talk to someone who won’t ever tell’. Steve later goes back to Colin’s flat to ask him if Mr Wilson dropped the book off there, and Colin remembers he did and says he’ll look for it. Aaah, bless him, I found it quite touching how reliant Steve has become with sharing confidences with his phone. But I despair with Colin ever finding that book amongst all the things he has hoarded. 

Donna makes contact and says that 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 at the cottage which makes up the map of Dorset. She looks at the map and sees Bournemouth on there, and also points out RAF Tarrant Rushton airbase constructed during the Second World War and says she thinks this is where Miss Iles took them that day. Ooooh, so another link to the war!

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. He decides to phone in sick at his workplace in order to give himself more time to devote to this, but then loses his temper and quits instead. He then feels regretful towards his probation officer, Maxine. Ooooh, so Maxine isn’t his ex but is a probation officer! And eeek, I was very excited at the cross and tick being within the child’s red top, oooh, this must mean acrostic! 

Steve goes with Donna to RAF Tarrant Rushton airbase. Donna suggests that all the criticism of Edith could be in order to distract people from the Twyford 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 and she says that Edith’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 acrostic within the Goldtop book was discovered in the 90s. Eeeek, I am absolutely fascinated by the acrostic within the text of the Goldtop 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 that Edith intended, or is it just people searching vainly for something (and I can understand their desperation to find something, as I feel that too!)? I was also wondering if Miss Iles was actually one of the first people to discover the acrostic 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! And eeeek again, I’ve just flicked back through the book looking for other extracts from Edith’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 which Steve thought referred to the five counties has an acrostic that spells ‘fish in rushton tunnel nine moons’! Ooooh, I’m 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 had spotted the Rushton Tunnel acrostic, I think Donna suggested going to RAF Tarrant Rushton airfield because of the Dorset map and her memory that this was where Miss Iles took them, rather than that she discovered the acrostic mentioning it. I am still bothered by the ‘a fish to open I’ 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 Edith had to leave words within the sequence whose first letters meant nothing? But that doesn’t seem quite tidy to me. I keep wishing we could have the Edith book to read alongside the main book (like in Anthony Horowitz’s Magpie Murder book, with the old Atticus Pund book interspersed with the modern book). I love this though, I want there to be something similar in the Enid Blyton books I read! 

And away from the acrostics, I have started to doubt Steve now. This was because Steve said something like ‘what does he know about me’, after Colin had explained that he hadn’t told Steve about killing their dad because he feared Steve might then kill him. What does Steve’s words mean? Do they mean ‘how could he think that of me’, or do they mean that Steve had previously done something violent (possibly killing someone?) and he wondered if Colin actually knew about it? I then remembered there was a mention of Steve sitting in a car covered in mud and blood, so I then began thinking that Steve could have killed Colin and had dumped his body in the mud sump! I actually had to flick forward in the book to find out if Steve had killed Colin, I just couldn’t continue until I’d found out, even though I hate flicking forward in a book! But I think I am finding it hard to fully trust Steve as a narrator because of this transcript style. I can appreciate the deliciously 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 tick’, and I do love the feeling of spotting things, but then I also worry that I’ve missed things!

At the airbase with Donna, Steve spots that there is a child-like outline of a plane carved into the memorial stone, and he thinks this is identical to the shape and angle of the plane on the cover of the Goldtop book. They both recognise the gates of the airbase from their visit there with Miss Iles, so they are confident that this is where she brought them. There are chalky sections of disused runways, and they then find a large iron ring in the ground near the centre of the site, and this ring is attached to a trapdoor. They open the trapdoor and go down. They’re in a tunnel created into a semicircle with corrugated metal sheets, and they think something used to be stored there. 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 as ‘Werner Rick tar’. They also see a giant fish painted on the wall beneath the trapdoor and Steve notices that the lines and angles of the fish are the same as on 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 I’. They then see two people’s shadows above them and the trapdoor slams shut. Omg, that’s so dramatic! Will they be ok? Arrrggh, to be trapped underground like that. But (without sounding like ‘I told you so’!) I really wasn’t sure it was a good idea for both of them to go down that trapdoor, it would have been far more sensible for one to go down and one to stay above ground. And omg, I was feeling certain they’d discover Miss Iles’ body down there! And the ‘Werner Rik tar’ bit is intriguing, I am guessing this isn’t how it is actually written but was just how Steve’s dyslexic mind saw the letters, but it sounds German, and how is it really spelt? Oooh, and I was intrigued with the drawing of the plane matching the plane on the cover of the Goldtop book, that must surely imply that they are on the right track. And eeek, I’ve just Googled and RAF Tarrant Rushton airbase is a real place!

Steve and Donna begin to panic and blame each other, but then the trapdoor is suddenly opened, just as Steve had climbed up the corrugated sheets to try and push it open from below, so he is injured when the trapdoor was accidentally dropped by the people rescuing them. These people are called Lionel and Maeve, who tell them that they saw two men hiding and watching Steve and Donna and who then crept up to the trapdoor and slammed it shut and ran away. Lionel and Maeve explain that they are ‘Masqueraders’, hunting the Golden Hare, and they show Steve and Donna an intricate drawing with a huge hare hidden amongst plants and animals and birds. They say that the Golden Hare is made of gold and has jewels on it, it is infused with lunar power to protect whoever discovers it and it exudes a mystical energy and has the power to grant endless life, but they say the importance of the Golden Hare to them is the journey the person takes to find it, the clues they follow and the riddles they solve. They show Steve and Donna a whole book full of similar drawings and clues, and say they have been searching for the Golden Hare for over 20 years and they’re only on page 6 of the book. Donna knows all about the Golden Hare and says it was found decades ago, but Maeve responds saying that this 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, and Lionel seems to imply the nearby hill is Goldtop Hill. Later, Donna tells Steve that she remembers the book of drawings that Lionel and Maeve are following, she says the book 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 one couple did actually 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. She then abruptly states that she needs to sort her life out and that she’s finished with the Twyford Code. Omg, I am loving this Golden Hare thing, it sounds a bit weird but also enticingly fascinating! And eeek, I’ve just checked on Amazon and there is actually a book called Masquerade by Kit Williams, so I guess everything that Donna said about the book and its followers was true! How amazing is that?! And he did another book about bees. And I see there’s another book called Quest for the Golden Hare by Bamber Gascoigne which sounds like it explains the Masquerade book, I love this, I think I’m going to have to buy those books! And phew, I was so relieved when they were rescued from the tunnel, I was anticipating them being trapped in there for ages (and with Miss Iles’ body down there with them, eeek!). But who were those men who were watching Steve and Donna and trapped them in the tunnel?! And ok, apologies to Steve, as him being covered in mud and blood was due to being hit by the trapdoor, rather than for killing his brother, I was obviously too over-eager to doubt him there, but it is confusing sometimes when something is stated (like Steve being covered in mud and blood) and then the explanation comes some time later. Why not state the circumstances at the time? And oooh, so Goldtop Hill is potentially right there by the RAF airbase?! Omg, yet more confirmation that they are on the right track, I love how things are falling into place a little now. But I can’t help finding it a little bit odd that hunters of two different things, the Golden Hare and the Twyford Code, are being led to the same place. 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 it’s making me wonder 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 because his place at the hostel depended on him keeping to the terms of his parole and keeping his job, which he has now left. 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 Code group is very cliquey and they are reluctant to let others in as they’ve agreed to share the proceeds of what they eventually find so the more people involved means the less the share will be for everyone. He says he’s been following the Twyford Code for years and that Michelle is a member of the group too. Steve is suspicious about why Nathan lied to him, and annoyed that he didn’t spot Nathan was lying when he prides himself on spotting a liar, and thinks that Nathan seems obsessed by it all. Nathan says the chatroom that Donna found is just a front to put off idle searchers, and underneath that is the secret group of members, he also explains that the owner of the cottage is also a member of their group and they told him they were coming to visit, and he says that the map which Steve found at the cottage was a red herring. Steve reminds Nathan that the reason he himself is involved in all 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 Twyford Code when she took them to Bournemouth and the RAF Tarrant Rushton airbase, and that she disappeared, but that there was no secret Twyford Code group like this then. He doesn’t tell Nathan about the tunnel and the fish and the wallet and the trapdoor. Hmmm, so Nathan was concealing something, but it wasn’t anything harmful to Steve, it was just that he’s already been involved with the Twyford Code hunt for years. And 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?

Lucy calls Steve telling him she’s been studying the painting on the wall in the background of the photo of Edith. Steve tells her that Edith’s husband painted this painting on the wall at the cottage. Lucy says the painting looks like a Kandinsky drawing but that isn’t one of his and is just a very skilful imitation. She says she’s found a high quality copy online of the painting and says there are 11 circles in it, not 6, 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. Therefore, following Steve’s dartboard theory, she says that the numbers are 5, 3, 2, 4, 2, 5, 2, 5, 9, 3, 2. She says added up these numbers 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 that mentions the number 42, 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. Steve says there are 21 Super Six books, which is half of 42, and these are translated into 42 languages. Omg!!!! This all blows my mind! Is 42 really such an extraordinary number?! But I’m loving Lucy and her research. And obviously I am now wildly trying to make some kind of meaning from the 11 numbers that Lucy has discovered (apart from adding them up to 42) because, as much as I love the 42 thing, I am more tempted to think that the numbers likely relate to letters of the alphabet, as surely letters and words would be more Edith’s natural choice than numbers? But 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 which were left over in the ‘a fish to open I’ sentence (the ‘rttbbf’), and how tidy and cool would that have been?! I was quite hopeful with that second idea of mine too, (the ‘rttbbf’ thing) 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’ve just looked back on everything I’ve just written above and I can see I am close to losing my mind over this book and becoming as obsessed as the Twyford Coders and the Masqueraders, tee hee! I also keep flicking back in the book to check things, and am making sooooo many notes. I’m almost forgetting to keep on reading the book, as I’m just getting obsessed with looking backwards for proof of ideas I suddenly get! I just hope all my hard work is rewarded and the book is as good at the end as it has been throughout. But on another subject, I’m not sure I remember us being told that Edith’s husband painted the painting on the wall at the cottage, were we told this? I remember it being said that Edith’s husband did the illustrations in her books, so he obviously was a skilled artist and I guess it is therefore likely that he painted pictures that they hung on the wall at their cottage, but I don’t like this assumption that this is the case. Maybe it’s just me and I’m being too suspicious or I’ve forgotten the conversation dealing with this, but I honestly don’t recall this being stated earlier, so where has Steve got this information from?

Steve and Lucy ponder about Edith setting these clues to potentially reveal a secret and why she couldn’t just tell people the secret outright or just make sure that the secret was never discovered. They wonder if the secret is something that Edith couldn’t say for fear of her life but felt that people should know. Later, Lucy gives Steve her keys to the gym so he can get a shower and sleep there, as he is now homeless. When 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 other words. Steve is also frequently checking if he’s being followed, and he also starts thinking about the green bus again and whether there was someone on the bus, and he also begins to worry that he is imagining things and losing his mind. Hmmm, I’m not sure that Steve is correct here with his acrostic (listen to me, an expert on acrostics all of a sudden, tee hee!). I think the extract Steve reads gives good suitable acrostic words but there’s not the ‘cat’ key word in the extract. But I admit that the passage in the book does make little sense and sounds contrived and like it has had certain words forced into it, so it’s tempting to think it does contain some secret message. Maybe another key word has been used? And I did like Steve and Lucy’s thinking about why Edith couldn’t just share the secret, why she had created all these elaborate clues to it (but I’m grateful that the author of this main book decided that Edith did all this, as I’m having enormous fun trying to decipher it all!).

Lucy contacts Steve saying she thinks she’s seen the letters N and W between the dartboards on the photo of Edith, 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 now a 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. Ooooh, I love this, well done Lucy, but I wonder if this is a bit too complicated for Edith to have done, particularly bearing in mind that she wouldn’t have had Google to search for these suitable places and would only have had paper maps to look at. But I wish we could have copies of this photo of Edith, and the possible dartboard 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 tells Lucy that he’ll use this money to pay for petrol for them both to go to Wrexham and Liverpool. Lucy deciphers Steve’s revolution/adventure extract giving a slightly different combination of words, but it still makes little sense. 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 made them believe that they’d come into some money to get them to answer their phone and meet him. I worry this could be what is happening here. 

Steve and Lucy travel to Wrexham. Lucy says she has found out that Edith’s husband was called Edward Barnes, and that Edward in the Super Six books was named after Edith’s husband. Lucy has also found out that Edward Barnes left his first wife for Edith. 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 then approached by two men in the gents toilets at the Wrexham bar, which makes him now convinced that the housing money phone call was fake and was just a way to make him turn up at the Jobcentre so they could follow him, and Steve thinks these men are trying to stop him cracking the Twyford Code. Steve and Lucy also find the former bank in Liverpool, Martin’s Bank, and there is a blue plaque saying that London’s gold was stored there during the war. Steve begins wondering if the Twyford Code leads to a portal in time so people can go back to the time when the gold was stored in the Liverpool bank, but Lucy ridicules this idea, Steve keeps thinking about it though, tempted by the thought that he could go back in time and live his life again. Lucy finds out that the movement of the gold from London to Liverpool and then to Canada was called Operation Fish. She thinks that the choice of the fish name could have come from ‘goldfish’, she then remembers Goldtop Hill which is another connection with gold, and she then realises that the acrostic ‘a fish to open I’ makes, with the next letter ‘r’ added from the acrostic, an anagram of Operation Fish. Eeek, I’m so excited by this, that’s wonderful! The ‘a fish to open I’ never really made much sense to me (apart from the tentative link to the trapdoor in Rushton tunnel) so I am far happier that the letters actually make an anagram of Operation Fish (and, as I said before, I am now quite partial to anagrams and looking for them everywhere!). And I was so excited when they found the fish symbol in the toilets too! But I’m back to wondering about Steve again. I partly wondered if he was losing it a bit, or holding onto the Twyford Code as some kind of crutch, with him considering so seriously about it being a time travel thing, that doesn’t really seem like his usual kind of thinking. And I noticed that the men who approached him in the gents toilet at the Wrexham bar, called him Smithy! So are they something to do with the old Harrison gang, which Steve has mentioned again and again in the transcript? And if so, then is this whole story tied up with Steve’s past in some way?

Lucy and Steve begin to wonder if the gold was actually stolen when it was in Canada, or stolen on its way back to England. If so, they think that 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 that the gold was lowered into, so they decide to come back at night to try and enter it. Later at night, they get the drain cover off and enter the vault. They find a fish painted on the wall, but it has been almost completely painted over by a swastika. They are now convinced that this is what Edith and her husband were trying to communicate through the Twyford Code, that the country’s gold was stolen by the Germans during the war and this was concealed by English authorities. Steve shows her the wallet that he found in Rushton tunnel, which seems to be German. Lucy reads the name Werner Richter on the wallet, and finds out on a Google search that he was a German major who was declared missing in action and presumed killed in an operation. Lucy then begins to wonder if the gold never actually 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 then wonder if the gold was hidden there before or after it was stolen, and how Edith knew about it. Ooooh, I am loving this connection with the war and secret missions, it just adds to all the excitement of the story! However, I am beginning to think that this stealing of gold sounds possibly like something that Steve’s old Harrison gang could have planned and attempted. Therefore, I am wondering again if Steve actually knows more than he’s telling. Or it could be that he’s unaware of what his old gang did, but that his past is catching up with him which is why he’s involved in all of this. But if he’s unaware of it, then there are some huge coincidences in him becoming involved. I’m also thinking back to the green bus where he found the book, as I’m wondering if the bus could have been the transport for the gold and the book was left on it to guide the way to where the gold was hidden. Oh, but then Steve discovered the book on the bus years after Operation Fish had happened, so perhaps I’m wrong on all of this. And I have noted in amongst all this, that Lucy searched on Google for fish symbols and found the Greek word ICHTHYS which is an acrostic for Jesus Christ and was used as a secret symbol for Christians when they were persecuted, just as I found, yay! I do like Lucy!

Steve has stolen money off someone at the gym, so he now realises that he can’t go back to stay at the gym. He decides to go to stay at his brother’s and also get Miss Iles’ book while there, but when Colin answers the door Steve can see that Colin has been beaten. Colin also uses a code when speaking to Steve at the door, they devised this code when they were younger in order to warn each other of trouble and it consists of speaking to the other as if they’re from the council. Steve then sneaks around the back of Colin’s flat and climbs in. He can hear voices in there so enters. There are two men in the flat, and they call Steve ‘Smithy’. They want the key to the Twyford Code and threaten to force Steve to hand it over by hurting Colin. So Steve kills Colin! Steve says in the transcript that he took this action in order to save Colin from being tortured by the men, that he felt it was better for Colin to be killed quickly than to suffer at their hands. However, he also admits to a huge wave of anger at Colin for killing their dad, and how this resulted in them being poor and him growing up half-starved and then falling in with the Harrison gang. He also says he thinks that Colin had expected him to kill him for years. Omg, I didn’t see that happening, I was really shocked when Steve killed Colin (even though I had suspected him of doing that earlier, but it was just so sudden how it happened!). I’m also trying to remember if Steve had told anyone that the book was at Colin’s, as otherwise how did the men know to go there? I’m also bizarrely beginning to wonder if these men who Steve said were at Colin’s flat, and he said were in the gents at the pub in Wrexham, don’t actually exist? Could it just be 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 again, with the men calling Steve ‘Smithy’ I’m wondering if they are from his former Harrison gang, 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? But then, no, as the timings are all wrong, Steve (and presumably the Harrison gang) weren’t alive in the Second World War.

Steve finds Miss Iles’ book and it still has Miss Iles’ notes written inside 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’. He also finds the piece of paper which Miss Iles waved infront of his face, telling him it had her name on it, but the note is in German and has Werner Richter’s name on it. Hmmm, firstly I’m wondering what Miss Iles is apologising for in the note to Steve. Is it for the danger that she might be bringing him by getting involved in this? Or is it the obsession which it could create in him? I guess though, that this means that Miss Iles must have come back from the Bournemouth trip, in order to be able to ask Mr Wilson to deliver the book. Or (eeek!) could it be that the note wasn’t from Miss Iles at all, bearing in mind it was typewritten? I’d also love to see the notes she wrote in the book. And Werner Richter’s name being on one of the notes, that’s strange! I’m wondering if Miss Iles had some connection with this German? Or did seeing this German name confirm her idea that the Twyford Code in the book does relate to treasure stolen by the Germans, so she just quickly said that it had her name on it in order to justify to Steve that she wasn’t going to return it to him? 

Lucy tells Steve that the ‘revenge…revolution…enterprise…venture’ passage that Steve found and which made little sense and didn’t have the ‘cat’ clue, now makes sense to her as she has found out that the ships involved in Operation Fish were called HMS Emerald and HMS Revenge and HMS Revolution and HMS Bonadventure. Lucy suggests that Edith knew through her husband that the gold had been stolen and that there was a cover-up to conceal this, and that Edith felt that people should know about this but couldn’t compromise her husband or risk putting them both in danger, so she put the codes in her books. Steve then suggests that Edith could have even been involved in the theft. Oooh, I love the names of the ships involved in Operation Fish matching the passage that Steve found, as it bothered me that that didn’t really seem to add up.

Steve tells Nathan that he now has Miss Iles’ book and asks for his help but says that it could be dangerous. Nathan then refuses to be further involved due to the danger. Steve therefore decides to get Lucy further involved, though he doesn’t like to put her in danger. Lucy tells him that she has bought a modern copy of the Goldtop Hill book and it is vastly different to the original, and it still has acrostics in it but they are different and give new messages. Lucy reads a passage from Edith’s original book published in 1939, the code between the ‘cat’ keys is ‘tss blyth spirit to palmers lane and wait’. Lucy says there is a River Blyth which is crossed by a Palmers Lane near Southwold in Suffolk, so 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, and the reader then has to 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’. Lucy also says the code changes with each edition of the book published, so she thinks the publisher must be in on this. What, what what?! Omg, how did Lucy discover that new acrostic method, as I’m just confused by it when I try to follow Lucy’s instructions myself, as 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? Or 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 that the dartboard numbers were map coordinates, so I should give up now trying to fit them somewhere else. And I did chuckle at the code changing with each publication of the book as I thought sneakily that that’s 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 that the text is supplied by Edith’s estate. They presume that the clues put into the text relate to the gold being moved and collected and, in order to protect themselves, the estate puts the clues into the books rather than directly telling the people moving and collecting the gold. But Lucy wonders why the person with so much gold at his disposal doesn’t just keep it for himself. Hmmm, I’m wondering again if Steve was involved with the gold earlier in his life but he was then out of things when he was in jail so other people took over from him, and he can’t read that well in order to now follow the clues by himself. 

Lucy gets Steve drunk and asks him to read a passage from the book, and it turns out that when Steve is relaxed enough, such as caused by drink, he sees words in a different way, as 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 presumes that these words are meant to only be seen by someone with the key, the key for this particular sentence being 2 and 2 and 3 and 1 and 2 and 5 and 2, meaning the reader takes the second letter from the first word, the second letter from the second word, the third letter from the third word, the first letter from the fourth word, etc. She then goes on to suggest that there is no key actually written down, and that Steve is the key himself. What (again!)?! 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’s name on says in German ‘Deliver to Werner Richter’ so she wonders if Edith and her husband were actually spies and passed books containing secret codes from MI6 to British agents deep undercover in Germany, using Edith’s cover of reading books to German children. Lucy then wonders if at some point Edith’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 has found a photo of Edith and her husband on the steps of University College 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. Hmmm, this University College London has been mentioned before, hasn’t it? Oh, it was where Rosemary Wintle worked. And eeek, I love the thought of Edith being a spy and transporting secret messages to the British agents via her books, that’s so delicious! And I love that this university used to be a covert intelligence base housing MI6, it all just sounds so James Bond!

Lucy goes to the university and speaks to Professor Scott who she remembers used to talk about the university’s role in the war as his father was involved with MI6 there. But she pretends to be someone called Lila, as she knows the professor propositioned her friend Lila so hopes that reminding him of this will make him squirm and he’ll feel obliged to help her. She manages to look into the professor’s father’s diaries, and sees a mention of the Hortons who were inconsolable after a breach but that they had a plan to save fish. Ooooh, the Hortons were the characters from Edith’s Super Six books! Is this the father’s code for them in his diary? And I can’t help but analyse every new character’s name to see if it’s an anagram!

Steve is waiting outside while Lucy speaks to the professor. He hears a voice whisper ‘Smithy’ and runs, but he is caught and pulled into a basement. The men say that they know Steve has ‘it’ and that ‘it’ belongs to them. Steve tells them that they don’t want ‘it’ as ‘it’ is cursed. Someone then approaches the basement, so the men hit Steve and knock him unconscious. He comes back to consciousness, and finds Lucy and explains his injuries by saying he fell over. Oh God, what is happening here, who are these men? And is the ‘it’ to do with the Twyford Code, or something else?

Steve suggests to Lucy that while they are at the university they see Rosemary Wintle, he explains that she is an expert on Edith who he has spoken to previously. They meet with her, and Steve tells Wintle they believe that Edith was a spy during the war and hid messages in her books about Operation Fish. Wintle says Operation Fish was all a hoax. She says England’s gold was never going to be transported to Canada, but that it was secretly stored in Rushton tunnel during the war as this was thought safer than storing it at the Bank of England, and that the only real physical thing about Operation Fish was the boxes with a fish clasp which were made for the sailors who were supposed to be taking part in the fake mission. Wintle says that Edith 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 in Operation Fish and convinced him she wanted to switch sides and that she’d divert the gold to him so he could then ship it to Germany, and Richter agreed to this and released her. Wintle says the references that Edith put in her books were to then convince the Germans that Edith’s story to Richter about Operation Fish was actually real and that there was an opportunity for the Germans to steal England’s gold, so double agents passed Edith’s books to German intelligence, saying that the books secretly contained messages from MI6 to English spies about Operation Fish. Wintle says Richter was then encouraged to come secretly to England so that he could check the progress of Operation Fish and report back to his superiors. Wintle says that Edith and her husband were very involved in all of this and they directed Richter to a small boat saying that he would be collected there, this being the Blyth Spirit to Palmers Lane reference, and they then drove Richter to Martin’s Bank and convinced him that the gold would be stored there before being sent to Canada, and that they had already put a few bars of gold into the vault in order to convince him of this. Wintle says that Edith and her husband had also previously painted a fish on the wall in the vault, as this was a symbol they had seen in the Wrexham bank where the group had met to plan the Operation Fish hoax and so they thought that the fish symbol would be suitable to use, and the paint can from this was still there in the vault so Richter painted a swastika over the fish. Wintle says Richter then sent a message back to Germany confirming that everything seemed genuine with Operation Fish and the gold would be transported to Canada, so Germany then sent a convoy of ships to intercept the gold and the English were able to destroy these ships. Wintle says that Edith and her husband then took Richter to Rushton tunnel, which was where the gold was really being stored, and shot him and his body sank into the mud. Wintle added that Richter had brought a huge typewriter with him from Germany in order to communicate with his superiors, so Edith took this typewriter to Bletchley Park and they then discovered the Enigma code which helped England win the war. Wintle says that after the war, the English authorities went to Rushton tunnel to remove the gold and return it to the Bank of England, but they found that the gold was gone. Wintle says that Edith’s husband told the authorities that the gold wasn’t technically stolen and that it was safe and that the clues to its whereabouts would be released eventually, but Edith and her husband then died before releasing the clues. Wintle says it doesn’t appear that Edith and her husband ever did anything with the gold bars to benefit themselves, as the gold has never turned up anywhere and they never made any expensive purchases, plus the coastlines had been tightly monitored so the authorities knew Edith and her husband hadn’t shipped the gold abroad. Wintle says she thinks that Edith and her husband took the gold because they felt betrayed or used by the authorities. She says Edith and her husband were never arrested for the theft as the authorities had also pretended to the English public that Operation Fish was real and that England’s gold had been transported to Canada during the war, in order to boost English people’s morale during the war, so they would then have to admit that this wasn’t true and also that England’s gold had been stolen. She says Edith and her husband were never killed in punishment for stealing the gold, as then the secret whereabouts of the gold would have been lost forever. Wintle says the clue to the location of the gold is in Edith’s books but that no-one has the key. Omg, wow, we’ve learnt so much there, and how exciting it all is! But the story just keeps changing so quickly, sometimes completely changed and sometimes bits of it changed. We are told one story that seems to be a wonderful story and which I invest in, then we are told that was actually untrue and we are told another story that seems wonderful and I invest in, and round we go again! I just find it all a bit difficult to keep track of, and I’m keen to check if each story ties up the earlier loose ends and clues so that boggles my mind a bit going back through everything, whilst I’m also half preparing myself for being told again that that story is untrue and there is another wonderful story that I invest in, arrrgh! But on another subject, I am thinking the box that Steve found at Edith’s cottage must have been one of the fish clasp boxes given to the supposed sailors. 

Steve and Lucy remind Wintle that someone must know where the gold is and it is regularly being moved, as the new text in the books which refers to the gold’s location is being supplied by someone. They then ask Wintle why she has trusted them with all this information. Two men then suddenly screech up in a van. Wintle seems to know the men, and they grab Steve and tie him up with a bag over his head, throw him in the van and drive off. Omg, another huge shock! What is happening here?!

The van drives for a while but is then rammed by another vehicle driven by Paul who rescues Steve. Paul says that Nathan had traced Steve’s phone and had got concerned when the signal was lost when Lucy went into the university (as Lucy had Steve’s phone), so Nathan had sent Paul to investigate. Paul then saw the men bundle Steve into a van and so intervened and 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 then start crying and holding each other, saying that Steve needs closure. Hmmm, the story now keeps skipping between this story at Rushton airbase, and the story of Steve’s time with the Harrison gang from his youth. I’m confused why we’re switching between the two stories, and to be honest I don’t really care about the Harrison gang side of things, I just want to stay with the Tywford Code side of things, although both seem to include gold bars so I am guessing they are actually both connected.

To the Harrison gang side of things – the boss of the Harrison gang, Andy, had planned to kill Steve during a raid to steal gold bars, but due to confusion at the scene Andy actually killed his own brother instead. Steve escaped the scene taking the stolen bars of gold with him, but Steve then later gave himself up to the police and was imprisoned for the murder of Andy’s brother. Hmmm, I 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 gold bars before he was arrested?

To the Twyford Code side of things – 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 behind her and pushed her as a joke, but she fell down into the tunnel and the trapdoor lid fell shut. They couldn’t get the trapdoor lid open again and were scared of getting into trouble, so they returned to the bus and Paul drove them home, and they never told Steve what had happened. Steve says goodbye to the others, they having all agreed that closure has now been reached and it’s all over and they won’t see each other again. Hmmm, this is a bit surprising! Is this really what happened? Why then did Donna go down into the tunnel with Steve, wasn’t she worried about finding Miss Iles’ body down there? I’m getting a bit worried now that this whole story is beginning to fall 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, now she has been left with Wintle, who I’m beginning to think is not a good person.

Later, Steve meets Lucy, and she talks about him going off with his friends. What?! I’m even more confused now! He didn’t go off with his friends, he was bundled into a van with a bag over his head, wasn’t he? This is all getting very odd! What has actually happened, can I trust Steve’s telling of events at all? 

Lucy says Wintle is the daughter of Edith’s husband Edward Barnes and his first wife, and that she is part of the group that edits the text for the reprints of Edith’s books. Lucy presumes that Wintle knows where the gold is, and she says Wintle lives in an expensive house in Mayfair. Steve then sees someone approaching, and quickly hands his phone to Lucy and disappears. Sigh, I’m even more confused now! Is this Andy from the Harrison gang? But if he’s after Steve for the gold bars that Steve took from the raid, then why didn’t they get him while he was in prison? And what happened when Lucy was left with Wintle, why would Wintle let Lucy freely go with Lucy knowing all about her? 

Lucy is sitting in a park recording a transcript on Steve’s phone. She says Steve has been gone for a month and hasn’t been in touch with her. She says she has now listened to all of Steve’s transcripts on the phone, so knows his life story. She has tried to locate Steve’s 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 had recorded it as him being bundled into a van. Hmmm, I did have my doubts as to Steve’s reliability as a narrator! So is lots of what he’s said not actually true? And I’m also confused, as when I look 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 telling things correctly, or is Lucy?

Lucy then says she was ambushed as she left the park, and she is being kept somewhere in the dark, as her kidnappers think that Steve will show himself rather than allow them to hurt her. Lucy says she has had time to think over all of Steve’s recordings and she thinks he hid the gold bars from the Harrison gang robbery for his son to find and use, and that Steve has now disappeared and won’t be seen again. As she is recording this transcript into Steve’s phone, someone seems to come into the room so she switches off the recording. This last recording of hers is July 2019. Eeek, all I can do is just think with exclamation marks!!!!! This has taken a very sinister and concerning turn, poor Lucy!

It is now November 2021, and Professor Mansfield is leaving a voicemail responding to Inspector Waliso, after he’s listened to the transcripts that the inspector sent him. Mansfield asks who the missing person is, whether it is his father or if it is Lucy, and he is concerned about his father’s whereabouts. Eeeek, so Professor Mansfield is Steve’s son! I never thought of that! And I’m thinking again that the inspector’s surname, Waliso, must be an anagram, but what can it be? And I feel very worried that over two years have passed since Lucy’s last recording, where is she and how is she, is she even still alive?! 

In December, Mansfield leaves another voicemail for Inspector Waliso, saying he has now verified various bits of information in his father’s transcripts, and found out that he was involved with a London gang and was jailed for 11 years for murder and robbery. Mansfield says he has also looked up Operation Fish and the successful transfer of England’s gold to Canada during the war, that he’s ordered copies of Edith’s books to read, that he’s found on the internet the photo of Edith 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 which Steve mentions. He says he’s also found a photo of Edith and her husband on the steps of University College London, and a photo of Edith reading to children in Germany during the war. He says he’s researched Werner Richter and found he is listed as missing in action, and he’s also verified that the plaque outside Martin’s Bank in Liverpool is there, as is the memorial stone at RAF Tarrant Rushton, and that the map coordinates do 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 chat-rooms relating to it, and there is also no information about a Miss Iles going missing. Mansfield later says that he has sought out Colin and he is alive, and that Colin said that when the men were in his flat 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, that Steve then gave this bag to the men who then left. Colin said that Steve knew he used to hide things in the back of the TV. Colin said Steve then stayed with him for a couple of days and then told Colin that he’d never see him again. Mansfield adds that Colin has an expensive cinema system in his house which he said was delivered to him. Omg, so Colin isn’t dead, phew I am relieved. And so Operation Fish actually really happened?! Omg, omg, omg, I have just looked up Operation Fish on Wikipedia and it is all detailed there!! Such an incredible operation, and not one gold bar lost and the Germans never guessed it had happened! Omg, it never occurred to me earlier to look on Wikipedia for Operation Fish, as it all just sounded so unlikely that such a thing would have happened, wow, I am so impressed! And the plaque at Martin’s Bank commemorating this is also mentioned on Wikipedia too. But all that aside, I am still completely and utterly confused by everything else! And I’m wondering if Steve is actually pretending to be Colin, so as to hide.

On another voicemail to the inspector, Mansfield says he has now met Nathan, who told him that he had only seen Steve once since his release from prison, and that Nathan also told him that the group didn’t go to Dorset in 2019. Mansfield says he had looked in Nathan’s garage and there was no office or Twyford Code information, and that he’d asked Nathan about the Twyford Code and Nathan said he’d never heard of it. Mansfield says that he’d also asked Nathan about Miss Iles, and Nathan had said that she was the best teacher they’d ever had and they were sad when she left but they were then taught by Mr Wilson. Mansfield adds that there was a rusty Volvo in Nathan’s garage which Nathan said wasn’t his and that he was looking after it for a friend, and that there was also an expensive car on the drive and that Nathan had mentioned that they were shortly going on a six-week holiday to the Caribbean. Mansfield says he remembers from Steve’s transcripts that this particular model of car and this particular holiday were Nathan’s aspirations. Mansfield also asks the inspector if he can hear the audio files for himself, rather than just reading the transcripts provided. Ooooh, I’m wondering if Steve has sent money to Nathan for him to buy this expensive car and holiday in order to bribe him to keep quiet about all that happened, and I’m wondering if the rusty Volvo is actually Steve’s. I’m also thinking that Nathan’s voice was recorded on the transcript so Steve must have met with him. Or was it actually someone else’s voice?

Mansfield has had no reply from the inspector, but leaves another voicemail for him. He says he has discovered that Andy, the Harrison gang boss, was arrested last year trying to sell a diamond, so Mansfield says he thinks the bag that Steve passed to the two men in Colin’s flat (presumably who were Andy and his son), contained some of the diamonds from the robbery. Mansfield says he has also discovered 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 also found which linked Andy to the robbery. Mansfield says he has also discovered that the police inspector who arrested Andy was called Donna Cole. Mansfield says he has also tried to find Donna and Paul and Michelle and Lucy but has had no luck, but he states that he remembers that Steve said he was good at imitating voices so he is beginning to wonder if Steve made up the others who were on the transcript, including Lucy, and he says he is also now wondering if it was actually Steve trapped in the dark place at the end rather than Lucy. He also adds that he has realised that Waliso is an anagram of ‘is awol’. Ooooh, I don’t know if that’s any better thinking it’s Steve who was/is trapped in the dark place rather than Lucy, as he presumably still hasn’t been rescued. And so none of the others existed? Well, presumably Donna (a police inspector?!) and Nathan exist but not Paul and Michelle and Lucy, and I guess if Steve did the voices for Paul and Michelle and Lucy, then he probably did the voices for Donna and Nathan too. So the whole transcript is a lie then, basically?! And I wonder if the mechanic who planted the gun and gold bar was actually Steve. And I’m thinking that now Andy has been arrested and it’s known that Steve didn’t kill Andy’s brother, and Steve is now safe from Andy with him being in jail, then if Steve is hiding somewhere (which I’d prefer to think of rather than him trapped in a dark place) then he can now safely reveal himself. And huge eeek, Waliso is an anagram, I knew there must be something in that name, but just couldn’t see it myself!

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, he also says 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. Oh no, the trail for Steve has gone cold and has been scaled down, so he is still potentially trapped somewhere (but I’m hoping he’s not trapped and is just hiding)?! And there is no Twyford Code?! Ohhhh, I have been so invested in this, I am gutted gutted gutted to think that it wasn’t actually real (well, real within this main book), as I loved it all so much! But there is obviously some other kind of code within the main book, but do I have the energy now to try and work it out after I’ve already invested my heart and soul into the Twyford Code?

Mansfield leaves another voicemail for Inspector Waliso. He apologises but says he had already tried to find out more about Miss Iles, and had found a previous pupil praising her classes in 1994 so this has made him wonder if she did actually survive, and he has also found someone else who says he saw her in a care home in Sussex last year. Mansfield then goes on to say that he has now actually found Miss Iles at the care home and introduced himself to her as Steve’s son and she happily reminisced about Steve. He says he asked her about the school trip to Dorset, and she said that Steve had brought a book to class that he had found (and that he had found this book on a regular bus, not the green bus detailed in his transcript), she says she knew that the Edith Twyford books were banned but she was amazed at the effect on her pupils 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 Edith in her cottage and she therefore decided to take them there. She told Mansfield that Steve broke into the cottage, but she loved seeing all her pupils there exploring everything so enthusiastically, and that she also took them to a heath and they all enjoyed playing in such a green and natural location, having only grown up in high-rise flats, and that this was particularly so for Steve, who she had been concerned about as he had no parents and wasn’t being well looked after by his brother. She told Mansfield that she had then explained to her pupils that she would be shortly taking a job in a girls’ school and so would be leaving them, and they were all very upset and angry, particularly Steve, and when she drove them home they had to stop several times due to how upset Steve was and how upset the other children were at seeing Steve so upset. She adds that 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 says he asked her about the Twyford Code and she seemed delighted that Steve ‘did it’, and said that it was all her idea and they were the Super Six. Mansfield adds that he thinks Steve must have been setting a code within 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. Hmmm, so again, there is a kind of code then, even though it wasn’t the Twyford Code set within Edith’s books, as Miss Iles seems to be referring to some code that she and Steve constructed. But why all the intricate detailed story about Edith Twyford’s books? Like Mansfield, I’m wondering why Steve felt a need to hide things in a code instead of just telling him. I’m a bit blown away by how much this is all changing now, it almost seems like I’m getting information too fast to be able to process, as I’m having to kind of reverse all my previous thinking and all the things I’d retained about acrostics and anagrams from Edith’s books. But I’m obviously delighted that Miss Iles is alive, although I imagine Inspector Waliso will not be pleased that Mansfield has found her and spoken to her.

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 of 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, so I’m thinking the ‘inspector’ is actually Steve! Which then makes me think now how odd it was that Mansfield hadn’t contacted police stations before asking for Inspector Waliso when the inspector hadn’t been returning his calls, bearing in mind the urgency with his father missing, obviously Mansfield would then have realised that there was no such person as Inspector Waliso, but hmmm, I wonder if that’s a little mistake on the author’s part not to have provided an explanation about why Mansfield hadn’t done that quite natural thing of searching for Inspector Waliso. Or was he perhaps not told which area of the country or which police force Inspector Waliso was part of (I must check back in the book to see), I guess if not then it would have been nearly impossible for Mansfield to have contacted every single police force in England looking for the inspector (so I guess I can then let the author off, tee hee!). And I’m wondering if there are acrostics within Steve’s transcripts (extra to the acrostics within Edith’s books) that I’ve not seen at all, mainly because I was so desperately focused on Edith’s books.

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 says he 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 robbery is hidden. Oh, it’s all just crumbling around my ears, all my time invested in the Twyford Code and studying the extracts from Edith’s books! I just can’t let it all go, and all these extra bits that confirm the Twyford Code is false and everything and everyone was made up by Steve, just makes me sadder and sadder. But I love that Steve has constructed this for his son by using books he read in prison, and that books have clearly influenced him so much. And there is treasure to be found, ie the gold from the robbery, so there are still clues to be found and cracked. And really everything that Steve has created is so very clever, it’s a mammoth operation he has constructed, pretending to be Lucy and convincing the others to take part by telling them elaborate tales, and to have laid the trail of the Twyford Code like this (even though, sob, the original Twyford Code trail I’d set my heart on isn’t actually real! But I really must try to let that go…!). And so this makes sense why some bits of the transcript seemed not to fit, as these were the bits when Andy and his son caught up with Steve.

Mansfield solves the acrostics which Steve had hidden in his transcripts, using ‘mustard’ as the key word, and the word ‘fish’ meaning ‘gold’, and the recording times which are stated 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. Omg, it is so clever, really Steve/Janice Hallett has done this work twice, with two lots of acrostics and clues! I love the gold being hidden in graveyards in Twyford villages, that’s a nice link back to the Twyford Code (which I am still struggling to let go of!). And the dialect which had annoyed me at the start of the book, was actually there for a reason as part of the clues, that’s so clever, I love it! But I have to admit, I just read about Mansfield cracking this later code, I kind of didn’t have the energy myself to go back through the book to search for the key words and recording times, etc, myself, which I am sad about as I really wanted to be as enthusiastic and excited about this later code bit as I was about the earlier Twyford Code bit, but I just felt I’d already invested so much in the Twyford Code and was still reeling from the disappointment that it was all wasted.

It is explained at the end of the book that the Twyford Code was all made up by Steve and Miss Iles, as 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 track of Steve when he was released from prison and to check he didn’t have the gold from the robbery, and 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 later 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! What a wonderful book full of such amazing ideas, I am struggling to process it all but I am blown away by what the author has created here! A tiny bit of me is frustrated that the Twyford Code wasn’t real (ie, the codes within Edith’s children’s books) as I loved following those and thinking that Miss Iles had cracked the code and was living in splendour, and I am slightly alarmed thinking of the huge amount of time I spent speculating on it all! But what absolute sheer enjoyment it was! I found it difficult to switch from Edith’s Twyford Code story to Steve’s story of escaping from Andy and the acrostics in his transcripts which Mansfield discovered, I think I’ll have to read the book again (certainly no hardship!) in order to properly grasp those. And I admire Hallett’s aim in helping to promote awareness of prisoners’ illiteracy and the importance of providing books for them to read. 

It’s such a great mystery with fantastic clues, one of my favourite clues was the map of Dorset made up of illustrations from Edith’s books, that Steve finds in the box indicated to him by Edith’s pointed fingers in the photo at the cottage, how intricate and delicious! And I also loved the painting on the wall in the same photo which resembled dartboard numbers which then related to map references of bank connections, and which also prompts Mansfield to look for similar clues of map references within Steve’s transcript (and I wish I’d cottoned onto that myself too, but I remember I was suspicious with the map references of bank connections as I thought Edith would only have had maps to use in her day, not Google as Steve had, so maybe I could scrape (!) a little point for observation/deduction for myself from that…?). But it’s all just such wonderful imaginative writing from Hallett, and I can’t help thinking how much she must have enjoyed herself creating all this! 

I think I could also perhaps feel a little pleased with myself regarding my suspicions of Steve as a narrator, as I kept having vague doubts about whether he was to be trusted with what he was saying, and obviously that was the case as most of it was untrue! I am also quite pleased at my realisation of the limitations of that transcript format, with me feeling frustrated that it didn’t give the reader details of where people moved to and what they did, and obviously I can now see why the author chose this format due to the restrictions it provided, as no-one actually moved anywhere! Again, such wonderful ideas and writing! 

So I’m going back over my notes now to get things straight in my head and to find answers to all the things that puzzled me. So there were two false stories that Steve made up, one being that codes in Edith’s books gave the location of England’s gold from Operation Fish, and the second being the secret aim the friends all had in order to conceal from Steve that they pushed Miss Iles into the tunnel. It really does blow my mind to consider how much was going on in this book, with those two stories being unravelled (even though both were false stories devised by Steve) as well as the third story of Steve’s life and him running from Andy and letting his son know where the gold from the robbery was hidden through his transcripts. Just wow, wow, wow!

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 there weren’t any acrostics in Edith’s Super Six books? So the things that Steve described about Edith’s books were true but just had no significance, such as on the front cover one child always had a red item of clothing? (I know the Super Six books don’t really exist outside of this main book, obviously, but they do exist within this main book. And they are now there fondly in my mind forever, and I am reluctant to let go of them actually containing acrostics!).

And again, so Miss Iles didn’t actually find a piece of paper saying ‘Deliver to Alice Iles’ in the Super Six book when she read it to the class, Steve just included this in his false story in order to show how Miss Iles supposedly got engrossed with the Twyford Code? (Although Miss Iles was a real person, within the main book).

So from what Mansfield says when he visited Miss Iles, it was true that Steve brought an Edith Twyford book into class and Miss Iles read the story to the class and took them to Edith’s cottage? It then all became a false story after that, which Miss Iles helped Steve to create, in order to conceal a message for Mansfield?

Regarding Paul and Michelle’s attitude at the beginning of Steve’s investigation, with Paul being unfriendly and acting suspiciously, and Michelle trying to grab Steve’s phone when she realised he was recording the conversation, so these things didn’t happen as all of them were actually really helping Steve in the creation of the transcript for his son? So these suspicious attitudes were put in by Steve to add credence to his false story of them pushing Miss Iles into the tunnel and wanting to conceal this from him?

Regarding Donna telling Steve at the beginning that she thought Miss Iles had been kidnapped and killed, so the real Donna (ie, police officer Donna) didn’t really think this but had said it for Steve’s transcript as she thought she was providing a fictional story for Steve’s grandchildren? 

Regarding the things that Steve couldn’t seem to remember, such as reading the book out to the class, breaking into Twyford’s cottage, how they got back on the bus from Bournemouth, I’m a bit puzzled why Steve included these and then pretended not to remember them, but I guess it was to imply doubt about who was telling the truth and hint at sinister happenings within Steve’s false stories? 

Regarding Mr Wilson pressing the panic alarm when Steve mentions the Twyford Code, so I presume all this was made up and there was no interview with Mr Wilson, and perhaps never a Mr Wilson who then died, it was all included in order to hint of sinister happenings within Steve’s false stories?

Regarding the revelation that Colin had killed their dad in revenge for their dad killing their mum, so was that all true? But then why did Steve include it, as it wasn’t a relevant part of either of his false stories? Or did he include it in order to demonstrate to Mansfield the hard life that he had had and why he had turned out as he did? And I guess Steve’s hard start in life, through having no parents, led to him getting into the gang and being involved in the robbery from which he gained the gold bars that he is now wanting Mansfield to collect.

Regarding Colin being killed by Steve, so we now know this didn’t actually happen and Colin was alive at the end, but then why include it, as (again) it wasn’t a relevant part of either of Steve’s false stories? Did he include Colin’s supposed death in order to try and prevent Mansfield from seeking out Colin and asking him questions about Steve? Or was it just because Andy and his son appeared when Steve was recording this section 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?)?

Regarding Steve and Donna being trapped in Rushton tunnel, so was this actually Steve (on his own) being shut in somewhere else by Andy and his son, and his injuries from the supposed trapdoor were actually from being beaten by them, and (as above with Colin’s ‘death’) as some of the action of this beating was recorded on the transcript, Steve had to therefore give an explanation for it so invented them being shut in the tunnel (but again, I come back to the question of why he couldn’t delete or edit the recordings to take out the bits of Andy appearing that interfered with his false stories)? 

Ok, so thinking more about the possible editing/deleting of the transcript and why things were included that Steve didn’t seem to want to be there. There are also recorded phone calls within the transcript that Steve didn’t intend to record and he tried to end these quickly when they happened or to switch off the recording, as well as the occasions when Andy and his son captured Steve or hurt him and which were recorded on the transcript so Steve then had to make elaborate stories around these things. And sometimes Steve seemed to draw attention to these more than was needed, such as when Lucy (ie, Steve in a female voice) asked Steve where he had disappeared to when she was supposedly inside the university and he had been bundled into the cellar, why add this at all? I can see that perhaps Steve didn’t have the technical knowledge to delete these from the original recordings, but when he used the software transcript service to put his recordings into typed words couldn’t he have deleted these typed passages out of the final document before sending it to Mansfield? Or am I being stupid here, was there no original recording, did Steve just type it all straight into his document? Although, yes, there was a recording, as Donna recorded things for Steve thinking it was being used as a story for his grandchildren.

I also wondered why Steve gave himself up to the police after the robbery and allowed himself to be jailed for 11 years for a murder he didn’t commit. Though perhaps he protested his innocence of the murder charge and wasn’t believed, and perhaps he realised there was no escaping being captured for his part in the robbery so thought it was easier to give himself up and do the time rather than be constantly running and hiding. Or did he do this in order to let the fuss die down and try to convince people that he had no idea where the gold from the robbery was, so he could then leave the country and live off the proceeds after he came out of prison and leave the gold for his son? But he’s lost 11 years of his life and time with his son. 

I did wonder too why Steve made his Twyford Code false story all about hidden gold bars, as it seemed like the false story was being used to deflect attention from him having hidden the gold bars from the robbery, so wouldn’t it have made more sense to have the Twyford Code false story be about seeking something totally different from gold bars? Although maybe using the (real) Operation Fish story within his false story attracted him because it involved gold bars.

And I did love the sneaky acrostic that Mansfield includes at the very end of the book, ‘love is brighter than gold but it is heavier’, it felt an extra nice treat to end the book in that way, to have the reader complete one more delicious acrostic and to emphasise the wonderful puzzle element running through this book.

But but but…one last thought (as I’m so reluctant to put this book down and get on with my life!). How could Miss Iles afford to live in that grand house (as didn’t Mansfield say it wasn’t actually a care home she was living in with other residents, but was one grand house that she lived in alone and owned?)? She’d been there for 40 years, so the money for it didn’t come from Steve rewarding her financially for helping him hide the gold from the robbery and helping with the transcript for his son, as 40 years ago would have been when Steve was still a child (and the time of him finding the Edith Twyford book and her then leaving the job teaching at Steve’s school). And her house had 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 what, what, what?! Did she actually see acrostics in the Edith Twyford book that Steve brought into class and follow a trail to the Operation Fish gold in Rushton tunnel, finding a few gold bars there when she took the children on the trip (the gold bars which Edith and her husband had hidden there), and this was why she told the children then that she was leaving that job (and there was no girls’ school she was going to) as she realised there and then that she could be rich and could live off the proceeds of these few gold bars? Is the Twyford Code in Edith’s books not actually a false story and is actually a ‘true’ story alongside Steve’s false story of the friends pushing Miss Iles into the tunnel and Steve’s true story of the gang and the hidden gold bars from the robbery? 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 did Steve not realise that the story involving Operation Fish that Miss Iles gave him to use as a false story for his transcript for his son, was actually true? Is there actually something in Miss Iles’ name being an anagram of ‘lies’, was everything she told Steve that seemed to be an elaborate story of lies for his son (ie a false story), actually not lies?! Arrgh, my head hurts again! But I so very very much hope that Miss Iles did follow a code in the Edith Twyford books and has lived wealthily on the proceeds ever since!!! Omg, I feel I need to read the book all over again! Could it be a double double triple quadruple bluff?! I am feeling stunned just considering this!

So when I have re-read The Twyford Code and then tried to regain some kind of normal functioning life (!), I will definitely aim to read every other book that Janice Hallett has written as I am a huge fan and I’m so excited that there is this wonderful writer out there. I see her first book was The Appeal so I’ll definitely be reading that. And after being reminded of Enid Blyton’s wonderful books (with them seemingly similar to Edith Twyford’s Super Six books) I think I’ll re-read her Adventure series, which were always my favourite of her books, the first one in the series being The Island of Adventure. Reading the Twyford Code also made me fondly remember reading Anthony Horowitz’s Magpie Murders with his book within a book (because I was wishing desperately that Edith Twyford’s book could have been printed within the main book!) so I am tempted to re-read that. And I’ve never read Lord of the Flies so the mention of it influencing Steve so much makes me very tempted to read it, as well as The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in order to see the significance of the number 42! And of course I must try and get hold of Masquerade by Kit Williams (and The Bee Book by him sounds intriguing too) and Quest for the Golden Hare by Bamber Gascoigne, although both seem hard to find. And I know this sounds a bit ridiculous but I’ve just been so fired up by code words in books, that I’ve started completing a Codewords Puzzle Book, it’s great fun! 

The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett available on Amazon
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