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The Vanishing Box by Elly Griffiths - Review

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

While trying to get myself over my reading slump I remembered that I had the fourth Stephens and Mephisto book yet to read. I got it on Netgalley (so thank you to Quercus books for that!) and had been "saving" it for something. For what, I really don't know. Elly is one of my favourite authors; I think she can weave a story like almost no other. She creates believable and interesting characters and has settings that are so visceral that you feel like you're right there behind people watching events unfold.

I got into Elly through her Ruth Galloway novels, where Ruth is an archaeologist who often helps the police with their investigations. I love the mixture of fact and mythology, theology and profane, and I've recommended the books to a number of people now and got them hooked too. When I first read that Elly was writing a new series I was at first sceptical, but gave them a go. And now I love them too!

The Stephens and Mephisto mysteries are set in Brighton in the early 1950s. Edgar and Max served together in the war and meet up after several years. Edgar is a detective and Max is a magician, and Edgar ends up engaged to Max's daughter, Ruby, who is also a magician. Max and Ruby always end up involved in whatever mystery is going on, and there's a cast of supporting characters that I really like, including Edgar's colleague Emma, who is quite a feminist. We follow quite a few people's points of view which makes the plot move quickly and always keeps my interest.

I think this one is my favourite of the 4 Stephens and Mephisto books so far, although looking back at my blog I said that about the last one, so maybe they're just improving each time! Set just before Christmas, the start of the novel finds a girl called Lily dead. She lives in digs owned by Edna and Norris, and although there are a couple of theatrical girls also living there, no one can understand why there seems to be such a link to the theatre. But Lily's body has been staged in such a way that points at one of the groups currently on the bill at Brighton Hippodrome with Max, so the police have to investigate backstage again.

I loved the claustrophobic feeling of this book, made worse by the encroaching snow and bad weather. It's set over just a few days too, which helps. I think the 1950s setting is one that is often overlooked but which works really well here. I don't think I would like these books as much if they were modern, but there's a great mix of old fashioned and modern policing which I love.

I can't wait for the next one, if there is one!


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