Liz Currently Loves…..Smoke and Mirrors by Elly Griffiths.


Publication Date: 5th November from Quercus

Source: Publisher Review Copy

Pantomime season is in full swing on the pier with Max Mephisto starring in Aladdin, but Max’s headlines have been stolen by the disappearance ’of two local children. When they are found dead in the snow, surrounded by sweets, it’s not long before the press nickname them ‘Hansel and Gretel’.

DI Edgar Stephens has plenty of leads to investigate. The girl, Annie, used to write gruesome plays based on the Grimms’ fairy tales. Does the clue lie in Annie’s unfinished – and rather disturbing – last script? Or might it lie with the eccentric theatricals who have assembled for the pantomime?

Having absolutely adored “The Zig Zag Girl” I was really pleased when another adventure for Max and Edgar dropped through my door – and I was not disappointed. Once again the mixture of magic and murder makes for an addictive and fun read despite the dark undertone to this particular tale dealing as it does with missing children.

Brighton 1951 and Max is doing Panto….Edgar meanwhile is desperately trying to track down two missing children who seem to have vanished into thin air. Sadly there is no happy ending to be had and Edgar turns to Max for some insight…

Elly Griffiths captures the atmosphere and sense of place so beautifully – Brighton, post war, a very different environment than today with its lack of technology and much slower pace of life. A time when there were still shortages and a lot of people were broken, the whole country in recovery mode. This sets the scene perfectly for characters such as Eddie and Max  – brought together by the war and tied together afterwards by friendship and loyalty…as a pair they are utterly compelling and as individuals absolutely fascinating.

In “Smoke and Mirrors” the underlying dark fairytale theme is truly creepy – an extraordinarily interesting exploration of the original stories which really are scary tales – horror stories for children. Disney may have turned them into saccharine loveable bedtime fun but as Edgar’s team research looking for clues you really do start to get a sense of just how twisted those things really are. Including some I’d not heard of I was absolutely enthralled by this thread of the narrative.

There is a richness to all the characters quite aside from our main protagonists – developing relationships and backstory, in this instalment I was particularly drawn to Emma – a woman in the then very male dominated police world, I look forward to finding out more about her and seeing where she goes. Ruby, Max’s daughter and love interest for Edgar bounces off the page whenever she is around and overall the steady anchor to the series is excellent and certainly ensures that I will be sticking around for more. Yes come on, hurry along I want to know what happens next!

The mystery element is perfect, clues are there if you can only work it out and the mix of steady police work and magical insight gives things an extra frisson and works really really well. Absolutely a page turner but with a depth and beauty to the storytelling that really appeals to me.

Overall then a great read. Consider me hooked. Highly Recommended.

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When the body of a girl is found, cut into three, Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens is reminded of a magic trick, the Zig Zag Girl.

The inventor of the trick, Max Mephisto, is an old friend of Edgar’s. They served together in the war as part of a shadowy unit called the Magic Men.

Max is still on the circuit, touring seaside towns in the company of ventriloquists, sword-swallowers and dancing girls. Changing times mean that variety is not what it once was, yet Max is reluctant to leave this world to help Edgar investigate. But when the dead girl turns out to be known to him, Max changes his mind.

Another death, another magic trick: Edgar and Max become convinced that the answer to the murders lies in their army days. When Edgar receives a letter warning of another ‘trick’, the Wolf Trap, he knows that they are all in danger…

Elly Griffiths also writes the really terrific Ruth Galloway series.  Highly Recommended.


Happy Reading Folks!

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