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The Vanishing Box by Elly Griffiths
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The Vanishing Box

by Elly Griffiths

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Set in 1950’s Brighton, this fourth installment in the authors Magic Man Mystery series gives us Max Mephisto- one of the Magic Men- and his daughter, Ruby, playing a gig at the Brighton Hippodrome. On the same bill is Vic Cutler’s tableaux vivante, where almost naked young women stay perfectly still while arranged in various historical or artistic scenes. Meanwhile, in the boarding house where two of Cutler’s ‘girls’ live, another tenant has been found murdered and posed to ape a famous painting. This brings the other Magic Man, DI Edgar Stephens, into the story. Bodies quickly start piling up, as Cutler ends up dead, followed by a girl in the show, and soon there is nearly a cast of thousands, or so it seems. There are a lot of twists in the story; the guilty party wasn’t anyone I suspected. I did find myself getting confused with so many characters and their various relationships; I think in part because I haven’t read the earlier books in the series. But it’s a fun read, with the theater sections adding something unique. Four stars. ( )
  lauriebrown54 | Mar 5, 2019 |
It’s Christmas time once again, and Max Mephisto is back in Brighton for a big show - not a Pantomime this time, but a variety show that features a “living tableaux” act, that is, half-naked women posing without movement to depict historical events, all to the titillation of some and the outrage of others. Lily is not one of those show girls, she’s a florist, but she shares digs with some of the girls in the show at a rooming house run primarily for “theatricals.” When she is found dead, posed in a very specific manner, it is natural for DI Edgar Stephens to turn to Max for help with the show-business part of the crime. All too soon there’s another death, and then a third, and Ed begins to wonder just how many killers might be on the loose in his town…. This is the fourth in Elly Griffiths’ “Magic Men” series, and like the previous books it’s set in the early 1950s in Brighton, which at one time had been a very attractive seaside town but which by now has fallen into, if not ruin, then at least decay. I like the way that Ms. Griffiths portrays the time and place, and I thought her description of the way the “theatricals” lived was quite interesting. Of course, the most important part of these books is the ongoing relationship between Ed and Max, and also between each of them and Ruby, Max’s daughter and co-star, and Ed’s fiancee. All of the characters are interesting and believable, and the mystery is nicely handled, but how the relationships between those three play out in the midst of a multiple murder inquiry is what gives this story its verve; recommended. ( )
  thefirstalicat | Mar 3, 2019 |
Edgar and Max, once again find themselves in the midst of a murderer that threatens the safety of the girls performing in a show at the prestigious Hippodrome. It just so happens that Max and Ruby are the headliners, the first time they will perform together a father and daughter, at the same venue. Edgar of course and his team will be called on to investigate the murder of the first girl, a young girl staying at the same rooming house,xas many of the girls in the show. As the bodies begin to multiply, Edgar and his team, are under pressure to find the villian responsible for these deaths.

This is an author who has never let me down. This is her second series, and one that has a totally different appeal than that of her Ruth Galloway series. What they have in common though is characters that one comes to care about, become invested in their lives. This one combines police work with that of a Magician, Max Memphisto, and a time period where many things were changing.
Brighton, 1950's, the war is over but people are still struggling to find their way in this new future. Variety shows are ending, the mainstay of the war years, when entertainment was key, helping to keep people's minds off the war and its effects. Television is becoming a factor, on it's way to replacing live shows, and Max and Ruby are taking their show to the television sphrre.

Griffith has an amazing ability to place the reader firmly in time and place. Rooming houses, magic, variety shows, romances that change this time around, and a new, uncertain future looming. Both for the people in this time period, but also for our characters. An authors note at books end explains the history of the Hippidrome, originally erected as a skating venue, but never used as such. A well researched, meticulously rendered procedural.

ARC from Edelweiss. ( )
  Beamis12 | Nov 24, 2018 |
In this book, the danger comes closer and closer to Stephen and Mephisto. A young woman is found dead in her rented room. It looks like she was draped like a famous painting. At the same time, in the theater 'living tableaux' is performed, where also Mephisto and his daughter Rubi perform their magical powers. Does the death of the young woman have something to do with the performance? Soon there will be more deaths from the production 'living tableaux' and Emma will be in mortal danger.
I like this series. I hope it will continue. ( )
  Ameise1 | Oct 19, 2018 |
It’s Christmas 1953 and magician Max Mephisto and his daughter, Ruby, are headlining at the Brighton Hippodrome. Among the other acts is a risqué tableau in which near-naked women pose as statues of historic figures. When beautiful florist, Lily Burtenshaw, is found strangled and posed to resemble a famous picture of Lady Jane Grey at her execution, Max’s friend and Ruby’s fiancé, DI Edgar Stephens is called in to investigate. He begins to suspect that the murderer may have some connection to the tableau act, especially after he learns that Lily was friends with two of the women from the act who live at the same boarding house.

There’s plenty going on in Elly Griffith’s book, The Vanishing Box, the fourth in the Stephens & Mephisto Mystery series including several romances – it seems like every major character including Max and Edgar are entering new romantic adventures. I’m not normally a fan of romance and I found this somewhat distracting from the mystery itself but, then again, given that this is a mystery marked by sleight-of-hand and, of course, distraction, it does seem to serve a purpose beyond just romance for the sake of romance.

I have read and enjoyed several of Elly Griffith’s books and this is no exception. It is well-written and with an interesting story. Griffiths seems to understand the time period and its mores and, most important, the mystery is unusual and kept me guessing. The pacing is at times a bit slow, not unusual since The Vanishing Box is a historical cosy and, as such, the plot is more character- than action-driven but, for those who enjoy cosies and are looking for something a bit different, this is a very entertaining series.

Thanks to Edelweiss+ and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review ( )
  lostinalibrary | Aug 20, 2018 |
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What do a murdered Brighton flower seller, the death of Cleopatra and a nude tableau show have in common? Read the most dangerous case yet for Stephens and Mephisto and find out. The fourth Stephens and Mephisto mystery from the author of the bestselling Dr Ruth Galloway series - a must-read for fans of Bryant and May. 'Mixes cosiness and sharpness in a way that recalls the best of Agatha Christie' Sunday Express (on Smoke and Mirrors)Christmas 1953. Max Mephisto and his daughter Ruby are headlining Brighton Hippodrome, an achievement only slightly marred by the less-than-savoury support act: a tableau show of naked 'living statues'. This might appear to have nothing in common with DI Edgar Stephens' investigation into the death of a quiet flowerseller, but if there's one thing the old comrades have learned it's that, in Brighton, the line between art and life - and death - is all too easily blurred ?… (more)

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