Smoke and Mirrors
Pub: 5 November 2015
Back in July I posted a review of the first book in this series – The Zig Zag Girl – commenting that whilst I would have liked it to be a one off, ‘ a second helping could tempt me to see where she takes the characters from here’. And, so, I’m back, and so are we – back in early fifties Brighton. Winter 1951 to be precise and Panto season is in full swing. It also means Max Mephisto is in town to do his first ever panto – Aladdin. His turn as Uncle Abanazar should be a headline event, but when two children go missing and are then found dead on Devil’s Dyke, it’s the local children not Max who needs to worry about whose behind them.
A murder, of course, means, DI Edgar Stephens is also back. Aiding Edgar once again is fellow copper Bob, and Emma Holmes, a new female sergeant. It is this threesome who set out to uncover the truth.
The children – Annie and Mark – were close friends, and used to perform little plays that Annie had written based on fairytales – the darker and more macabre the better. But who would want them dead? A trail of sweets in the snow by the dead children mean fingers immediately point at the sweet shop owner. But as Max tells Edgar, this seems a classic case of ‘smoke and mirrors’ to divert eyes from the truth.
Slightly suspicious teachers, Annie’s disturbing and unfinished final script; a man with a theatre in his garage, and a previous murder in 1912 during rehearsals for Babes in the Wood all get thrown into the mix, as we rattle to a climax.
I have to admit I enjoyed having Edgar and Max back. Griffith’s adds to our picture of both men whilst not letting the plot drag. Once again Griffith’s tone, and feel for the time period and the theatre, is authentic and mostly avoids falling into pastiche. Also, whilst last time out I found it fairly obvious who the murderer was early on in proceedings, here I didn’t pick it up at all.
If I was going to pick fault, I didn’t quite buy how everyone – police and public – seem to just except a female sergeant in the early 50’s. But this is a minor gripe, and Emma is a nice addition to the team.