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Smoke and Mirrors

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Chilling murder in the world of 1950s theatre – another case for DI Stephens and Max Mephisto. Brighton, winter 1951. 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 n Chilling murder in the world of 1950s theatre – another case for DI Stephens and Max Mephisto. Brighton, winter 1951. 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? For Stan (aka the Great Diablo), who’s also appearing in Aladdin, the case raises more personal memories. Back before the Great War, he witnessed the murder of a young girl while he was starring in another show, an event which has eerie parallels to the current case. Once again Edgar enlists Max’s help in penetrating the shadowy theatrical world that seems to hold the key. But with both distracted by their own personal problems, neither can afford to miss a trick. For Annie and her friend, time is running out…


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Chilling murder in the world of 1950s theatre – another case for DI Stephens and Max Mephisto. Brighton, winter 1951. 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 n Chilling murder in the world of 1950s theatre – another case for DI Stephens and Max Mephisto. Brighton, winter 1951. 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? For Stan (aka the Great Diablo), who’s also appearing in Aladdin, the case raises more personal memories. Back before the Great War, he witnessed the murder of a young girl while he was starring in another show, an event which has eerie parallels to the current case. Once again Edgar enlists Max’s help in penetrating the shadowy theatrical world that seems to hold the key. But with both distracted by their own personal problems, neither can afford to miss a trick. For Annie and her friend, time is running out…

30 review for Smoke and Mirrors

  1. 5 out of 5

    Paromjit

    I listened to the wonderfully narrated audio of this one, and found it atmospheric and beautifully evoking the historical period of 1950s Brighton. It's the second in the DI Edgar Stephens and Magician Max Mephisto, friends since their stint in Norway as The Magic Men in WW2. This is a dark, creepy and menacing addition that revolves around the world of the darkest of fairytales, wicked stepmothers, fathers discarding their children, the dark side of those granted the wish of a desperately wante I listened to the wonderfully narrated audio of this one, and found it atmospheric and beautifully evoking the historical period of 1950s Brighton. It's the second in the DI Edgar Stephens and Magician Max Mephisto, friends since their stint in Norway as The Magic Men in WW2. This is a dark, creepy and menacing addition that revolves around the world of the darkest of fairytales, wicked stepmothers, fathers discarding their children, the dark side of those granted the wish of a desperately wanted child, and above all else the murder of children. It is the season coming up to Christmas in November and Brighton is in the midst of freezing snowstorms. Max has made an exception by starring in the pantomime Aladdin, performing magic tricks as the star villain. The worried Edgar is organising search parties in the dreadful weather for 2 missing local children, the talented young writer, Annie, and her good friend and assistant, Mark. The two have been organising children to perform a dark and twisted play written by Annie. The children are found buried in the snow, with a trail of sweets leading to their bodies. Amidst the horror faced by the families of Annie and Mark, the police team work their socks off to find the killer. Edgar co-opts Max to the case, as Diablo relates a much earlier child killing in the theatre. Things descend into a never ending nightmare as another child is taken, will Edgar and his team be able to find her in time? A fantastic book that I found an addictive listen! Highly recommended!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    3.5 I am always a little hesitant to read a new series by an author who already writes a series I absolutely love. Ellyn Griffiths though, comes up, with the most marvelous characters, she does it in her Ruth Galloway series, and I feel she does it in this new series as well. Two young children have gone missing, thirteen year old Annie and her friend Mark. Annie clearly the leader, loves to write and put on plays, strange twists on old fables. DI Edgar Stephens is given the case. Love the feelin 3.5 I am always a little hesitant to read a new series by an author who already writes a series I absolutely love. Ellyn Griffiths though, comes up, with the most marvelous characters, she does it in her Ruth Galloway series, and I feel she does it in this new series as well. Two young children have gone missing, thirteen year old Annie and her friend Mark. Annie clearly the leader, loves to write and put on plays, strange twists on old fables. DI Edgar Stephens is given the case. Love the feeling of this novel, the time period after the end of the war, the setting of Brighton, England and Edgar and his two war buddies I have now taken to heart. Max Memphisto is in Brighton starring in a panto of Aladdin and eventually Diablo will join him. Enjoyed the subject of fables, stories and myths and the exposing of secrets many are carrying. Another good, solid series by Griffith, interesting plot, very interesting characters and another series I have come to look forward to and enjoy.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Maureen

    A snowy 1950's Brighton sets the scene for Smoke and Mirrors. DI Edgar Stephens is tasked with finding two missing children. His friend Max Mephisto is headlining in the local panto Aladdin, but the real headlines are all about the children, in what becomes known as the Hansel and Gretel case. DI Stephens has plenty of leads and suspects to follow, but parallels are being drawn with a similar case in 1912, where some of those people present at that time are also in evidence here in Brighton. Coi A snowy 1950's Brighton sets the scene for Smoke and Mirrors. DI Edgar Stephens is tasked with finding two missing children. His friend Max Mephisto is headlining in the local panto Aladdin, but the real headlines are all about the children, in what becomes known as the Hansel and Gretel case. DI Stephens has plenty of leads and suspects to follow, but parallels are being drawn with a similar case in 1912, where some of those people present at that time are also in evidence here in Brighton. Coincidence? Or is there something more sinister going on? Just as the case begins to draw a blank and settles into re-interviewing suspects , further events take place that have you holding your breath. This was well written, with interesting characters, and a really strong storyline. Would definitely recommend. *Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for my ARC*

  4. 5 out of 5

    Phrynne

    Another very enjoyable book by this excellent author. I really do like the way she writes! Smoke and Mirrors is the second book in the Stephens and Mephisto series though I must admit we saw a lot of Stephens and not much Mephisto in it. I guess the magician gave us the links we needed to the theatre but the policeman played the major role throughout. Not that that was necessarily a bad thing because it was good to get right inside the police work surrounding the missing children. Griffiths alway Another very enjoyable book by this excellent author. I really do like the way she writes! Smoke and Mirrors is the second book in the Stephens and Mephisto series though I must admit we saw a lot of Stephens and not much Mephisto in it. I guess the magician gave us the links we needed to the theatre but the policeman played the major role throughout. Not that that was necessarily a bad thing because it was good to get right inside the police work surrounding the missing children. Griffiths always supplies interesting characters in her books although I have yet to become as attached to those in this series as I am to the Ruth Galloway series. There is still time! Great reading, entertaining characters, a good mystery - it's all there. I am looking forward to the next book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede

    DI Edgar Stephens and Max Mephisto are back in Smoke and Mirrors, book two in the Edgar Stephens and Max Mephisto series! This time, two children disappear and are later found dead. Has the murder of children something to do with the fact that the girl Annie used to write gruesome plays? Is there something in the last script that got the two children killed or has it something to do with a killing that took place around 30 years before. The first book in this series introduced us to DI Edgar DI Edgar Stephens and Max Mephisto are back in Smoke and Mirrors, book two in the Edgar Stephens and Max Mephisto series! This time, two children disappear and are later found dead. Has the murder of children something to do with the fact that the girl Annie used to write gruesome plays? Is there something in the last script that got the two children killed or has it something to do with a killing that took place around 30 years before. The first book in this series introduced us to DI Edgar Stephens and magician Max Mephisto. This book takes place a little while later and Max Mephisto is back in town playing in a Pantomime. Something that he had sworn not to do since he's a magician, not an actor. But the pay is good and being magicians in the's 50s is hard with all the up and coming comedians. But when the two children disappear and his friend Edgar Stephens tries to find them and later tries to find their killer. Could someone in the theater be involved with the killing? I found the story in this book better than the first book. I did have some problems really getting into the story in the beginning. I first felt that this would probably turn out to be an ordinary crime novel. Enjoyable to read for the moment. But somewhere along the way did I find myself truly enjoying the story and its characters. I like that Bob has a bigger role in this book than the last and I really liked the introduction of Emma Holmes. She seemed first like a really hard ice queen kind of cop, but as the story progressed did I find myself more and more liking her. Someone I did not like as much is Ruby who was OK in the first book, but in this was just so ego that I hope that Edgar does not end up with her. One thing that bothered me, that bothered me in the first book, and every time I read about it or see it in a movie/tv-series is when someone knows who the killer is sending a message to the police about it to meet someplace and then ends up dead. I mean come on. Just go to the bloody police. Don't send a message and for the love of God don't try to confront the killer. Just don't! There were a lot of suspects, but I didn't figure out who the killer was or why the person had to kill the children. I was totally surprised who it turned out to be. I'm looking forward to reading more in this series! Thanks to Quercus Books and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Brenda

    This is the second in the author's Stephens & Max Mephisto mystery series. The hand-wringing style, slow pacing, and lack of tension of the first book, The Zig Zag Girl, continues in this book. Set in Brighton just before Christmas 1951, two children are missing and then a third is abducted. DI Edgar Stephens and his sargeants, Emma and Bob, are completely stymied. Max, Edgar's best friend who he met during the war, is an actor in a pantomime appearing at the end of a pier, but doesn't really he This is the second in the author's Stephens & Max Mephisto mystery series. The hand-wringing style, slow pacing, and lack of tension of the first book, The Zig Zag Girl, continues in this book. Set in Brighton just before Christmas 1951, two children are missing and then a third is abducted. DI Edgar Stephens and his sargeants, Emma and Bob, are completely stymied. Max, Edgar's best friend who he met during the war, is an actor in a pantomime appearing at the end of a pier, but doesn't really help with the investigation. Much is made of fairy tales like Hansel And Gretel. It was all very meh.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    I’m a huge fan of Elly Griffiths’s Ruth Galloway series. I’m slowly dipping my toe in her other two series. One thing I enjoy about Griffiths is that she usually teaches you something besides providing a good whodunit. Here, it’s about fairy tales. A young girl and her friend are killed, their bodies positioned with a trail of candy leading to them. It’s 1951 Brighton and candy is still rationed. The girl had spent her free time rewriting fairy tales for her friends to perform, the latest a diff I’m a huge fan of Elly Griffiths’s Ruth Galloway series. I’m slowly dipping my toe in her other two series. One thing I enjoy about Griffiths is that she usually teaches you something besides providing a good whodunit. Here, it’s about fairy tales. A young girl and her friend are killed, their bodies positioned with a trail of candy leading to them. It’s 1951 Brighton and candy is still rationed. The girl had spent her free time rewriting fairy tales for her friends to perform, the latest a different take on Hansel and Gretel. Of course, Griffiths’ other strength is her characters. In addition to Stephens and Mephisto, I will admit to be in awe of his sergeant, Emma. She’s a great addition to the cast of characters. This was a good choice as an audiobook. Daniel Phillpot captured the mood of the book perfectly.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Famed magician Max Mephisto returns to Brighton to star in a local production of "Aladdin" at Christmastime 1951. His former service friend, Detective Edgar Stephens, is investigating the disappearance of two children. The two children, 12 and 13, write, star and produce plays for an even younger acting troupe and are very bright and clever. The children are currently producing a play based on "Hansel and Gretel" with quite a twist. There is no good news on the search though and the children ar Famed magician Max Mephisto returns to Brighton to star in a local production of "Aladdin" at Christmastime 1951. His former service friend, Detective Edgar Stephens, is investigating the disappearance of two children. The two children, 12 and 13, write, star and produce plays for an even younger acting troupe and are very bright and clever. The children are currently producing a play based on "Hansel and Gretel" with quite a twist. There is no good news on the search though and the children are found dead with candy sprinkled around them. Not only was that unusual but England was still on sugar rations then so not that easy to come by. As Stephens investigates the crime he is drawn into the world of fairy tales and discovers they can be quite grim (Grimm?) There really is a lot of violence in them with dead mothers, evil stepmothers, and witches trying to eat little children. How are they tied into the children's deaths? This is a great sophomore read by Elly Griffiths. I like it better than the first one in the series, "Zig Zag Girl". It is quite clever and takes a lot of twists and turns. There is a great back story about the theatre at the time as Max is called into help with the investigation. Things get chummier as other old friends join the acting troupe and their casual comments help the investigation. The ending really took me by surprise. I never guessed it. I do have a minor quibble about the disappearance of another girl during the investigation. I found it unlikely and unnecessary but it didn't ruin the story. The story flowed well and gave a strong sense of place and time. I could barely put it down as I just had to see what happened next. This author also has another terrific series about Ruth Galloway, a forensic archeologist professor. I highly recommend that series and this book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Gary

    This is the 3rd book I have read by Elly Griffiths and I found this one to be the best yet. The other 2 books I read 'The Zig Zag Girl' and 'The Ghost Fields' had lots of promise and both started excellently but just failed in my opinion to sustain the thrill and excitement they initially promised. This book however not only started well but kept me on the edge of my seat to the very end. This is the 2nd book in the DI Stephens & Max Mephisto series, following 'The Zig Zag Girl', but would equally This is the 3rd book I have read by Elly Griffiths and I found this one to be the best yet. The other 2 books I read 'The Zig Zag Girl' and 'The Ghost Fields' had lots of promise and both started excellently but just failed in my opinion to sustain the thrill and excitement they initially promised. This book however not only started well but kept me on the edge of my seat to the very end. This is the 2nd book in the DI Stephens & Max Mephisto series, following 'The Zig Zag Girl', but would equally work as a stand alone novel. Set in the 1950's the novel begins when two children go missing which leads to a Police hunt led by DI Edgar Stephens. The case develops into a double murder and there are plenty of interesting suspects. 'Smoke and Mirrors' is very entertaining and full of twists and turns to keep the reader guessing. I look forward to reading more of Elly Griffiths books in the future. I would like to thank Net Galley and Quercus Books for supplying a copy of this novel in exchange for a honest review.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ken

    Set in wintery 1950’s Brighton, this is the second story to feature DCI Stephens and he’s actor friend Max Mephisto. After the bodies of two dead children are uncovered in the snow, Stephens is convinced that there’s a fairytale connection as the only clue to the murderer is a pile of sweets next to the body. Very reminiscent of Hansel and Gretel... I love the blend of mystery and theatre in this series, whilst also invoking a real feel for the era. I could really feel Max’s frustration of being a s Set in wintery 1950’s Brighton, this is the second story to feature DCI Stephens and he’s actor friend Max Mephisto. After the bodies of two dead children are uncovered in the snow, Stephens is convinced that there’s a fairytale connection as the only clue to the murderer is a pile of sweets next to the body. Very reminiscent of Hansel and Gretel... I love the blend of mystery and theatre in this series, whilst also invoking a real feel for the era. I could really feel Max’s frustration of being a serious actor and the only work being available was pantomime. I enjoyed this even more than the first one! I’m always keen to read books set in Brighton, it was so easy to be transported back to that time period as the story flowed with a gripping hook of a chilling mystery.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Alex Cantone

    Devil’s Dyke was a beauty spot on the outskirts of Hove, a soaring stretch of downland that must have been used as a beacon and gathering place from the days when the first prehistoric farmers started to clear the land. Archaeologists had found the remains of an Iron Age hill fort and a Bronze-Age cemetery. In Victorian times there had been a funfair and a funicular railway. But the Dyke was also a lonely and ill-starred location… The second in the series of police procedurals with a theatrical t Devil’s Dyke was a beauty spot on the outskirts of Hove, a soaring stretch of downland that must have been used as a beacon and gathering place from the days when the first prehistoric farmers started to clear the land. Archaeologists had found the remains of an Iron Age hill fort and a Bronze-Age cemetery. In Victorian times there had been a funfair and a funicular railway. But the Dyke was also a lonely and ill-starred location… The second in the series of police procedurals with a theatrical twist, set in Brighton, UK in 1951, DI Edgar Stephens and his team of DS’ Emma Holmes & Bob Willis, is called in to the disappearance of two grammar school students, the search hampered by heavy snowfall. The bodies of Annie and Mark are found side by side in a dyke a day or so later by a dog-walker, both kids strangled, a trail of sweets (lollies/candy) leading to where they had been dumped. Parents, neighbours, the owner of the sweet shop and the school principals and teachers are interviewed, indicating that Annie had an interest in playwriting, specifically a dark twist on classic children’s stories, called “The Stolen Children”. At the pier theatre, Edgar’s friend from the wartime specialist group “The Magic Men”, magician Max Mephisto, is preparing for the Panto season where he plays the villainous Uncle Abanaza in “Aladdin”. Veteran variety star, the Great Diablo, also one of the “Magic Men” steps in to play the role of the Emperor, and complicates the investigation by revealing that back in 1912 the child actress playing in the “Babes in the Wood” panto, had her throat cut in the theatre. The killer hanged, but was survived by his wife and son, who would be in his fifties now. Was there a connection? With another killing the list of potential suspects grows, as skeletons are ousted from closets. Misdirection all round. I am really enjoying the details of life in post war Britain, still with some rationing, its pre-digital age policing and the fading grandeur of variety theatres competing against television, and those formidable landladies. The Regency buildings and Victorian terraces are still there, alongside new housing developments, but most homes lack a TV, refrigerator or a phone, few families own a car, yet there is neighbourliness still. We get to meet Max’s father, Lord Massingham and Edgar’s sister, Lucy. I had my own suspicions of the murderer and wondered why a certain line of inquiry was not followed up earlier, but overall an engrossing read, with a background on the old fairy tales, especially those of the Brothers Grimm, written as cautionary tales for errant children but which might not pass the censor today.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Carol - Reading Writing and Riesling

    Excellent! My View: I am so loving this series. Great characters that you want to learn more about and empathise with. The characters are so visual, so real, I have pictures of them in my head. The narrative is page turning and so very sad but not morose. Human nature is explored, lies revealed. A great read. I can wait for the next in this series.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    I would list Elly Griffiths as one of my favorite authors. I would elbow someone in a book store to purchase the most recent book in the Ruth Galloway series but this one for me did not hold quite the same magic.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Hall

    The second novel in Elly Griffiths’ post-World War II series is set in Brighton in the winter of 1951 and takes place in pantomime season and combines a darkly realistic mystery with a proliferation of suspects that takes inspiration from the rather macabre origins of fairytales. The disappearance of two children (ages twelve and thirteen) coincides with the arrival of snow to give DI Edgar Stephens a headache as he struggles to lead a search team in atrocious weather conditions. Annie Francis an The second novel in Elly Griffiths’ post-World War II series is set in Brighton in the winter of 1951 and takes place in pantomime season and combines a darkly realistic mystery with a proliferation of suspects that takes inspiration from the rather macabre origins of fairytales. The disappearance of two children (ages twelve and thirteen) coincides with the arrival of snow to give DI Edgar Stephens a headache as he struggles to lead a search team in atrocious weather conditions. Annie Francis and Mark Webster vanish one afternoon as they are playing out after school and reportedly on their way to the sweet shop. Both at grammar schools and only recently having left juniors, Annie is reportedly ‘going places’ and known for writing fairytales with unexpectedly grim twists. Directing a group of younger children, including her siblings and the other children in the street, and staging plays in the garage turned theatre of ‘Uncle Brian’, a new production was in the works. But just four days later the children are discovered lying amidst the snow and surrounded by an array of sweets in a chilling reminder of Hansel and Gretel. As Stephens and Sergeants Bob Willis and Emma Holmes try to get to the bottom of a convoluted case they struggle to make headway with so many potential avenues to explore. Forty-one-year-old Max Mephisto is also in Brighton having succumbed to the ‘graveyard of hopes’ that is appearing in pantomime. With well paid gigs in November thin on the ground the allure of performing tricks as he stars as Abanzer at the Palace Pier Theatre and a notable producer see Max reunited with Stan Parks (the Great Diablo). Friends from their shared experiences in the war, Max suggests to Edgar that the sweets are a misdirection but it is the memory of a 1912 pantomime in which one of the babes in the wood was murdered that haunts Diablo. And he isn’t alone in being the only one to remember the incident with several of the current cast starring or linked to that fateful 1912 murderous panto! The result is a complex puzzle with multiple red herrings that kept me reading (and guessing), set in the memorable surroundings of post-war Brighton and the shadowy world of end of pier theatres and variety acts. A host of peculiar characters and the fiercely intelligent Annie Francis and her sister, Betty, all give Edgar further lines of enquiry but another murder ups the ante in the countdown to Christmas. With post-war rationing still in place and a gulf between those that served and those that did not, the atmosphere is pretty bleak and the widespread appeal of a few hours of escapism at the theatre is obvious and so is the camaraderie of being one of the performers. The behind the scenes look at the theatrical world is fascinating and despite Max’s limited role in assisting Edgar he facilitates access into what feels like a clandestine world. The recurring characters are strong, believably flawed and distinctive and the addition of twenty-three-year-old Roedean educated Sergeant Emma Holmes in this second in the series is a definite plus with huge potential for the future.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Marianne

    Smoke and Mirrors is the second book in the Stephens and Mephisto Mystery series by British author, Elly Griffiths. Brighton, late November, 1951, and it’s snowing. On the West Pier, the pantomime, Aladdin is in rehearsal, with Max Mephisto starring. But his army friend, DI Edgar Stephens hasn’t time to see the show, or even to socialise: a girl and boy are missing, and the families are understandably frantic. Worst fears are realised when their bodies are discovered in the snow, surrounded, biz Smoke and Mirrors is the second book in the Stephens and Mephisto Mystery series by British author, Elly Griffiths. Brighton, late November, 1951, and it’s snowing. On the West Pier, the pantomime, Aladdin is in rehearsal, with Max Mephisto starring. But his army friend, DI Edgar Stephens hasn’t time to see the show, or even to socialise: a girl and boy are missing, and the families are understandably frantic. Worst fears are realised when their bodies are discovered in the snow, surrounded, bizarrely, by sweets. Despite their best efforts, Stephens and his team, which now includes the lovely (and smart) DS Emma Holmes, as well as Sulky Sergeant Bob Willis, are making no headway at all with the case when another victim is found. The heavy involvement of all victims in theatrical pasttimes lead Stephens to discuss the case with Max; possible suspects multiply as various aspects of the case bring to mind a similar case from forty years before. This time Griffiths uses three narrators: Edgar and Max carry most of the story, but Emma also gives her perspective on events. 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 and intelligent deduction. Griffiths gives the reader characters that are real and flawed; some are vain and selfish; others are prejudiced; some lack self-confidence; many have their own agenda. Her plot is clever and original and has a few twists and red herrings that even the most astute reader may fail to detect. The atmosphere of post-war Britain is skilfully evoked with description, dialogue and the attitudes common at the time. This is an excellent sequel to The Zig Zag Girl, and fans will be hoping for more of this series.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lee at ReadWriteWish

    Oh noes!!!!! I loved The Zig Zag Girl, the first in this series, but with Smoke and Mirrors I’ve finally read an Elly Griffiths book that did not impress me! Okay, where to start with my issues… I always check out other people’s reviews after I finish writing my own and I did notice a lot of (obviously older) reviews mentioned The Zig Zag Girl was not part of a series. Now, a few years have passed by, and it has three sequels. I have to wonder if Griffiths never meant to write anything more with Oh noes!!!!! I loved The Zig Zag Girl, the first in this series, but with Smoke and Mirrors I’ve finally read an Elly Griffiths book that did not impress me! Okay, where to start with my issues… I always check out other people’s reviews after I finish writing my own and I did notice a lot of (obviously older) reviews mentioned The Zig Zag Girl was not part of a series. Now, a few years have passed by, and it has three sequels. I have to wonder if Griffiths never meant to write anything more with these characters and if perhaps that’s why this book feels so underdone. It was forced? Actually I don't see the point of the series being called ‘Stephens and Mephisto’ after reading this book. Granted, what scenes Max Mephisto had were fantastic, but they were few and far between. The Great Diablo, so fun in the first book, too was relegated to a couple of irrelevant scenes. In this book DI Stephens takes the lead. His case is the mystery of two missing/kidnapped children. I found a lot of similarities between this crime plot and a couple Griffiths has already used in the Ruth Galloway series. Right down to the inclusion of a traditional fairy tale to add a bit of creepiness. Also like the Ruth series, Griffiths included DI Stephens’s fellow police officers in the story more. This was probably where she truly lost me. For starters, I'd like to say that if Stephens gets a sidekick, shouldn’t it be Max? Why not? A professional policeman teaming up with an (apparent) amateur has been done several times with much success. No, as I said, Max is sidelined and replaced with Bob and Emma. Bob was written as pretty incompetent in The Zig Zag Girl. In this book, he suddenly becomes quite capable and, for those who read the Ruth books, a complete Clough clone. We also get a new character -- Emma Holmes. Sergeant Emma Holmes, no less. Yes, this was confusing. A story set in 1951 featuring a female detective sergeant. Okay, I’d have to research it to know for sure, but I would hazard a guess there wasn't any female detectives in 1951. And if there was one stray girl who got past the ‘plod’ stage in Brighton, I seriously doubt they’d be able to take the lead in questioning a murder suspect or witness (as Emma does). Being cynical, I think Emma’s inclusion into the series is simply to become part of a love triangle with Edgar and Ruby. Again, Griffiths (and perhaps her publishers?) have taken what worked in the Ruth series and transferred it to this one. In the Ruth series, the love triangle added a necessary conflict to the romantic storyline. The Ruth books are truthfully basically romance books. Their mystery plotlines are always secondary. In the Zig Zag Girl, it was the other way around. The romantic subplot took a backseat to the action and mystery. Adding the Emma character switches the focus. Don’t get me wrong, Griffiths writes romance well and I’m sure 90% of her readers are chasing that element (not that they’d admit it) but I think she should have let the romance flow a little more organically and not specifically added an out of place (and time!) character to bolster it. There was already conflict with the Edgar/Ruby relationship anyway. There’s the age difference and the obvious problem they face due to the newly discovered identity of Ruby’s father. I might add, Griffiths could have just concentrated on Max’s storyline with his landlady if she wanted more romance. That was a really sweet and fun subplot! Another thing missing from this book was the charm of Brighton and the 1951 time period overall. The Zig Zag Girl seemed to use this place and time setting much more effectively. The Brighton snow seemed weird and other than the Emma character’s place in the police department being fanciful, there was also moments where Edgar’s way of thinking felt far too modern. For example, he wonders why another character hides his homosexuality from the police. Oh, I don’t know… Probably because he was afraid he might be arrested or fired from his place of work if anyone found this out! Then, he gets mad when he finds out Bob is not too impressed with homosexuals. I’m not saying this homophobic attitude is right but it was probably the usual mindset for that time. Adding our time’s sensibilities to historical books is fine by me but I prefer it when a writer does it seamlessly as opposed to hitting us over the head with a sledgehammer. I must admit, I will continue with this series. But unfortunately all I can rate this one is 3 out of 5.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    What a real pleasure to get an advanced copy of Smoke and Mirrors through Net Galley and only have to give an honest review in return. As a fan of Elly Griffiths you may sense an impartial review coming however it isn’t a given since this is the second novel in her magic men series and her justified reputation is based on her Ruth Galloway series. Therefore, buyer beware, this is Elly’s follow-up to The Zig Zag Girl and is again set in Brighton in the UK during the 50’s. That many of her cast of c What a real pleasure to get an advanced copy of Smoke and Mirrors through Net Galley and only have to give an honest review in return. As a fan of Elly Griffiths you may sense an impartial review coming however it isn’t a given since this is the second novel in her magic men series and her justified reputation is based on her Ruth Galloway series. Therefore, buyer beware, this is Elly’s follow-up to The Zig Zag Girl and is again set in Brighton in the UK during the 50’s. That many of her cast of characters return from the original novel is due in no small part to the author’s plot organisation and a love of the end of the pier show. The Christmas seasonal run of Aladdin casts a menacing shadow over the crimes investigated in the wider population as well as prompting a recollection of an earlier child murder that could be inspiring the events in this book. However, the pantomime production gives real depth to this latest novel in addition to the joy of remembering the various characters, the greasepaint and costumes as well as the digs and the accommodating seaside landladies. What is also striking about this period piece of police work in the 1950’s is the quality of research and the simpler life re-adjusting to life after the war. The joy of Griffith’s writing is that they are embedded in the narrative not showboated to indicate her hard work talking to people or googling. Therefore we have issues around rationing; the lack of young men, the role and careers expected of women are all here but not stumbling blocks to a great read but part of the fabric of a novel of its time, making it a classic historical piece in my opinion. I also wish to applaud the author for choosing a terrible crime of child abduction and echoes to a child murder in 1912 as the central plot and murder mystery of this novel. It strikes you a pre Moors Murders as even more terrifying to a small community where children could be kids and play out until it got dark. When two bright children; they passed their respective 11 plus exams disappear on the way to a corner shop society’s worse fears are addressed. The strain on the detective team is there to see but it isn’t overhyped when there is no immediate breakthrough in the case. All the time links with the theatre, fairy tales, the role of wicked uncles and step mothers seeking to harm and kill children are referred to in the text. An accomplished piece of fiction that has real dark moments yet leaves you uplifted in happier memories. A fitting tribute to the end of the pier show and a time of fewer cars, lots of walking and capital punishment where in this case you may say the penalty fits the crime.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Carla Johnson-Hicks

    This is the second in the DI Edgar Stephens and Magician Max Mephisto series. They have been friends since their stint in Norway as The Magic Men in WW2. As a child I read all the fairytales and never realized how dark and creepy they really were. This is a dark and creepy story that centres around the darkest of fairytales about wicked stepmothers, fathers discarding their children, wishing so hard for a child that it is only half human and the kidnapping and murder by evil witches. It is Novem This is the second in the DI Edgar Stephens and Magician Max Mephisto series. They have been friends since their stint in Norway as The Magic Men in WW2. As a child I read all the fairytales and never realized how dark and creepy they really were. This is a dark and creepy story that centres around the darkest of fairytales about wicked stepmothers, fathers discarding their children, wishing so hard for a child that it is only half human and the kidnapping and murder by evil witches. It is November and Brighton is in the middle of Pantomine season. Max is staring as the evil genie in Aladdin performing magic tricks to make his role even better. Meanwhile, Edgar is organizing a search party to look for two missing children. The worst part is that they have had a terrible, unexpected snowstorm which makes searching even harder, yet frantic as they want to find the children before they freeze to death. Annie, a young writer of plays and her good friend and assistant, Mark went to buy candy for Annie's latest dark, fairytale-like play and never returned. A couple of days later, the children are found buried in the snow, with a trail of sweets leading to their bodies. Not only are the families of Annie and Mark devastated, the whole town is frightened to think there is a murderer in their midst. As the police continue their investigation, Edgar recruits Max to the case. This story does not have as much of Max in it as the last one, but that is okay. It was still very interesting and had me guessing right to the end. Rose, Max's daughter makes an appearance as does his father. Emma, the local police detective, realizes some things about class and poverty that shake her up somewhat. It will be interesting to see if that goes any further in the next stories. The plot was well done and had me putting other things aside so I could see what was going to happen next. Another great addition to the Stephens & Mephisto series.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Deb Jones

    This second in author Elly Griffiths' Magic Men series, Smoke and Mirrors, remains true to the characters, tone and voice of its predecessor, The Zig Zag Girl. Although this is a series, the author provides enough background info that it can be read as a standalone. In a 1950 Brighton, England, where Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens is investigating the disappearance of two adolescents. His friend, and former military comrade, Max Mephisto, is in town acting in a pantomime of Aladdin. This is "s This second in author Elly Griffiths' Magic Men series, Smoke and Mirrors, remains true to the characters, tone and voice of its predecessor, The Zig Zag Girl. Although this is a series, the author provides enough background info that it can be read as a standalone. In a 1950 Brighton, England, where Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens is investigating the disappearance of two adolescents. His friend, and former military comrade, Max Mephisto, is in town acting in a pantomime of Aladdin. This is "soft" crime fiction in that violence, other than the simple results of crimes, is not a central theme. This, however, no way detracts from the plotting and suspense of the story.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Cindy Burnett

    Smoke and Mirrors was a very entertaining read. I am a huge fan of Elly Griffiths other series, the Ruth Galloway mysteries, and was really excited to read this one. I did not read the first in the series yet though I have it on my bookshelf. I had no trouble picking up the story with Smoke and Mirrors and didn’t feel like anything was confusing because I had not read the first one in the series. The main story takes place in Brighton, England in 1951. Two children disappear and are subsequently Smoke and Mirrors was a very entertaining read. I am a huge fan of Elly Griffiths other series, the Ruth Galloway mysteries, and was really excited to read this one. I did not read the first in the series yet though I have it on my bookshelf. I had no trouble picking up the story with Smoke and Mirrors and didn’t feel like anything was confusing because I had not read the first one in the series. The main story takes place in Brighton, England in 1951. Two children disappear and are subsequently found murdered. DI Edgar Stephens and magician Max Mephisto team up to solve this horrible crime which is dubbed the Hansel and Gretel crime. I always have a little trouble with stories involving missing and murdered children. Thankfully, while that was the crime at issue here, much of the book focused on the Panto being performed at the local theatre, starring Max, and a variety of fairy tales. Those were my favorite parts by far. The details related to the Panto, the actors involved and the roles they played, were fascinating. Griffiths even included a copy of the poster advertising the show at the beginning of the book. That was a great add. Smoke and Mirrors is well worth reading, and I recommend to anyone who likes mysteries and/or theatre. I also highly recommend her Ruth Galloway series. Thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and NetGalley for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Bruce Hatton

    Just two books into this series and I'm already beginning to enjoy Edgar and Max's adventures almost as much as those of Ruth Galloway and her chums. This one takes place just over a year after Zig Zag Girl during a particularly severe winter in December 1951. It's pantomime season and Max is starring in "Aladdin" whilst Edgar has the daunting task of finding the murderer of two young children. I loved the way the novel delved into the dark Gothic fairytales that pantomimes are based on and how t Just two books into this series and I'm already beginning to enjoy Edgar and Max's adventures almost as much as those of Ruth Galloway and her chums. This one takes place just over a year after Zig Zag Girl during a particularly severe winter in December 1951. It's pantomime season and Max is starring in "Aladdin" whilst Edgar has the daunting task of finding the murderer of two young children. I loved the way the novel delved into the dark Gothic fairytales that pantomimes are based on and how their gruesome plots are often echoed in the real world. Also, once again, the sense of time and place evoked was remarkable. Elly seemed to perfectly capture the sights, sounds, language and attitudes of the bleak post-war years.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Gram

    A wonderful old-fashioned type crime novel in which a trio from Brighton Police - DI Edgar Stephens aided by Sergeant Bob Willis and Sergeant Emma Holmes - investigate the disappearance of two schoolchildren. The search for the missing pair has a tragic outcome as DI Stephens and his 2 sergeants discover a tangle of clues involving old fairy tales and disturbing plays written by one of the missing children. As their leads take them down various blind alleys, another child vanishes and it becomes A wonderful old-fashioned type crime novel in which a trio from Brighton Police - DI Edgar Stephens aided by Sergeant Bob Willis and Sergeant Emma Holmes - investigate the disappearance of two schoolchildren. The search for the missing pair has a tragic outcome as DI Stephens and his 2 sergeants discover a tangle of clues involving old fairy tales and disturbing plays written by one of the missing children. As their leads take them down various blind alleys, another child vanishes and it becomes a race against time to find her.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sandra

    I loved this book. The flow is so good and the characters seem very real and often likeable. They seemed like people of the time without being cliche. Same with the world they lived in. And the plottwist, oh my, I did not see that coming. Which is why I won't say more about this story. Suffice to say though if you like good thrillers that stay away from tropes then you will likely love this book as well. I hope so at least. I loved this book. The flow is so good and the characters seem very real and often likeable. They seemed like people of the time without being cliche. Same with the world they lived in. And the plottwist, oh my, I did not see that coming. Which is why I won't say more about this story. Suffice to say though if you like good thrillers that stay away from tropes then you will likely love this book as well. I hope so at least.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Liz Barnsley

    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 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.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Cold War Conversations Podcast

    A highly readable atmospheric crime thriller, with a great sense of time and place. A double murder is committed as pantomime season is in full swing in Brighton in the 1950s. Somehow the two are connected and DI Edgar Stephens has plenty of leads to investigate. Assisting Stephens is Max, one of the pantomime’s stars who served with Stephens in a shadowy, secret unit called the Magic Men, formed to use stage trickery to confuse the enemy. This is the second book by Elly Griffiths to feature the “M A highly readable atmospheric crime thriller, with a great sense of time and place. A double murder is committed as pantomime season is in full swing in Brighton in the 1950s. Somehow the two are connected and DI Edgar Stephens has plenty of leads to investigate. Assisting Stephens is Max, one of the pantomime’s stars who served with Stephens in a shadowy, secret unit called the Magic Men, formed to use stage trickery to confuse the enemy. This is the second book by Elly Griffiths to feature the “Magic Men” and she continues to capture the seedy, down at heel feel of the English South Coast expertly. Reading the end notes it is clear she has researched the period extensively and illustrates well the showbiz element. There’s many other characters richly portrayed and watch out for Emma the only female in DI Stephens investigative team. I can see a spin off coming featuring her career! The book itself twists and turns and I failed to spot the culprit, with Elly expertly sending me down various blind alleys . All in all a highly readable atmospheric crime thriller, with a great sense of time and place. I’m really looking forward to the further adventures of the “Magic Men”.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Joyce

    I've loved Griffiths' Ruth Galloway mysteries, but this was my first of her Brighton-set series. (I've now reserve the first title). Set in 1951 with a real feel for time and place (rationing of food and fuel, no telephones in all the houses, etc.), the theatre setting (Max Mephisto, a magician, helps DCI Edgar Stephens solve cases) and the fairy tale theme (the murdered teen wrote plays with fairy tale themes, dark and gritty) were all draws for me. Two children, 12 and 13, are found murdered i I've loved Griffiths' Ruth Galloway mysteries, but this was my first of her Brighton-set series. (I've now reserve the first title). Set in 1951 with a real feel for time and place (rationing of food and fuel, no telephones in all the houses, etc.), the theatre setting (Max Mephisto, a magician, helps DCI Edgar Stephens solve cases) and the fairy tale theme (the murdered teen wrote plays with fairy tale themes, dark and gritty) were all draws for me. Two children, 12 and 13, are found murdered in a manner that suggests Hansel and Gretel, with a trail of candy, and Stephens investigates. Since it's nearly Christmas, it's time for pantomimes, and Max is in town performing. When the children's favorite teacher, who was helping with the plays, is also murdered, things get desperate. Interesting pair of detectives with distinctly different talents; story moves at a relaxed pace, despite the drive to find the killer; twists and red herrings in story line where "why" they were murdered is as much a mystery as "who" the actual murderer is; lots of British colloquialisms, descriptive, thoughtful writing; dark edgy tone. Langton does a great job vocally portraying the townspeople and actors--lots of accents, dialects, children and adults.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Magician Max Mephisto is performing in a Christmas pantomime, and his unlikely friend, Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens, is searching for two lost children, although Stephens believes in his heart that they are dead. Max finds connections between the cast of the pantomime and a murder that took place in 1912 (the book is set in 1951), and Stephens and his team are willing to look for any clue to a mysterious and sinister puzzle. This did not have the mind-boggling suspense of the first in the Magician Max Mephisto is performing in a Christmas pantomime, and his unlikely friend, Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens, is searching for two lost children, although Stephens believes in his heart that they are dead. Max finds connections between the cast of the pantomime and a murder that took place in 1912 (the book is set in 1951), and Stephens and his team are willing to look for any clue to a mysterious and sinister puzzle. This did not have the mind-boggling suspense of the first in the series, but it's still a superior and well-written book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    This is the second in a crime/mystery series set in 1950's Brighton. I enjoyed this more than the first - probably because I know the characters now and the story came together a lot more smoothly because of that. I like the combo of straight-laced policeman and ostentatious magician. I will certainly be reading more in this entertaining series. This is the second in a crime/mystery series set in 1950's Brighton. I enjoyed this more than the first - probably because I know the characters now and the story came together a lot more smoothly because of that. I like the combo of straight-laced policeman and ostentatious magician. I will certainly be reading more in this entertaining series.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jo Ring

    Second in the series. Really good.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Trudy

    3.5 stars enjoyed this and ready for the next

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