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  • Excellent historical crime fiction, once again.

    The Vanishing Box is the fourth book in the Stephens and Mephisto Mystery series by British author, Elly Griffiths. It’s December 1953 and Max Mephisto is back in Brighton doing a show at the Hippodrome, this time with his daughter, Ruby: Magician and Daughter seems to be a hit under the promotion of their agent, Joe Passolini. Also on the playbill is Victor Cutler’s Tableaux Vivants, half-naked women posing in living recreations of famous paintings or statues. DI Edgar Stephens and his team are drawn into the scene when a young woman is strangled and similarly posed at the rooming house where two of the Tableaux performers are staying. A beautiful young florist’s assistant, it seems Lily Burtenshaw had only a casual connection to the Tableaux, until another link is uncovered. But before further enquiries can be made, there is a second murder, this time within the Tableaux troupe. The vastly different MO puts another complexion on things: are they dealing with two murderers? Are others in the Tableaux troupe in danger? In this instalment, Griffiths uses four narrators, Max, Edgar, Emma and Bob, to convey different parts of the story as well as to give different perspectives on events. It plays out over six days, by which time three are dead. The immediate post-war era ensures the absence of mobile phones, internet, DNA and even many personal vehicles; thus the detective work relies on heavily on legwork, personal visits that often require trudging through the snow, and intelligent deduction. Griffiths gives the reader characters that are real and flawed; some are vain and selfish; others are distracted by their emotions. A certain long-standing relationship dissolves, a few more start, and there’s a promise of TV appearances in America for the magicians. The plot is clever and original and has a few twists that even the most astute reader may fail to anticipate. Griffiths certainly keeps the reader guessing as each potential perpetrator becomes a victim. The atmosphere of post-war Britain is skilfully evoked with description, dialogue and the attitudes common at the time. Excellent historical crime fiction, once again.

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  • The vanishing box

    I do love the stephens and mephisto series; the characters and stories are so good.if i had any criticism it would have to be that findind out that nearly all the characters are italian or half italian is getting a bit wearing!

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