The Vanishing Box by Elly Griffithsby Elly Griffiths
Series: Stephens & Mephisto Mystery #4
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on November 2, 2017
Source: Library
Genres: Historical Mystery
Pages: 368
Format: eBook
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In a nail-biting hunt for a missing loved one, DI Edgar Stephens and the magician Max Mephisto discover once again that the line between art, life, and death is all too easily blurred.

It’s the holiday season and Max Mephisto and his daughter Ruby have landed a headlining gig at the Brighton Hippodrome, the biggest theater in the city, an achievement only slightly marred by the less-than-savory supporting act: a tableau show of naked “living statues.” But when one of the girls goes missing and turns up dead not long after, Max and Ruby realize there’s something far more sinister than obscenity afoot in the theater.

DI Edgar Stephens is on the case. As he searches for the killer, he begins to suspect that her fatal vanishing act may very well be related to another case, the death of a quiet local florist. But just as he’s narrowing in on the missing link, Ruby goes missing, and he and Max must team up once again to find her.

Magician Max Mephisto and his daughter Ruby are headlining at the Hippodrome Theater in Brighton, the first time they’ve done a father-daughter act. DI Edgar Stephens, engaged to Ruby, is called to the murder scene of a young florist found posed and dead in her room at a boarding house. Also staying in the house are two young women who are in the show, a part of the tableaux of nearly-naked “living statues.” As the bodies begin to multiply, Edgar and his team, are under pressure to find the killer.

I hate to admit that I like Max better than Edgar. Edgar is a good guy, hard-working, honest, a bit guilt-prone. Max is just more interesting. His view of the world is often clearer, even when it comes to Ruby. He’s willing to make decisions that are perhaps morally dubious. He loves Italian food and the changes in the world are affecting his career more than Edgar’s at this point. I also enjoyed all of the secondary characters, both returning and new.

The mystery this time was well-done. There were a couple of good false leads and misdirection, as is appropriate in a mystery with a magician as one of the main characters. I was surprised by who the killer was, mostly because of the assumptions Griffiths allows us to make along with the detectives. The clues are there, but there are plenty of red herrings.

The book is clearly well-researched and I appreciate Griffiths way with words, of describing things. I wish there weren’t quite as many love triangles/love interests, but that’s just a personal preference. Love triangles, along with all their moaning and wondering, bother me. I like for the characters to be well-developed with relationships and family and friends, but I like the focus to stay on the mystery, not the characters’ love lives. One of the romantic entanglements did rub up against the case, so maybe I can’t complain too much.

About Elly Griffiths

Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway novels take for their inspiration Elly’s husband, who gave up a city job to train as an archaeologist, and her aunt who lives on the Norfolk coast and who filled her niece’s head with the myths and legends of that area. Elly has two children and lives near Brighton. She has written three series as Griffiths, one featuring Ruth Galloway, one featuring Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens and Max Mephisto, and the Harbinder Kaur series.

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