Imaginary Text

Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club

by Megan Gail Coates. Anansi 2019
4 stars - Jan 2024

This was pretty excellent; also quite dark. Various first-person accounts of a crappy winter day (plus lots of flashbacks) in St John’s Newfoundland. The characters’ lives are all entangled in various ways, some good, but mostly bad, and there is some really nasty trauma linking a few (most?) of them. The different characters speak in greater or lesser amounts of local argot, which allows Coates to really swing the language in places – this I think is the real strength of the book. The build is really strong, and it’s a page-turner as a result. The ending is partially satisfying but, as with so many novels, can’t compete with the build-up.

The Twyford Code

by Janice Hallett. Simon & Schuster 2022
4 stars - Jan 2024

I read this right after Christmas, and it was a great holiday escapist novel. The narrator is out of prison for some serious gang-related stuff, and the conceit is that he’s trying to work out what’s happened to him, which leads to a crazy complicated goose chase around the UK looking for clues, looking up old contacts, and trying to break the “Twyford code” which is embedded in wartime children’s books. The reality turns out to be even wackier than that, but you don’t get clued in to that until near the end. The book contains a number of puzzles (acrostics and whatnot) that I did not bother to try working out – made all the weirder by the supposed machine transcription of the narrator’s dictation. Pretty good ending, although the author drags it out with multiple epilogues for reasons that I didn’t fathom (unless they’re part of the puzzles).