In the 1960s, a famous magician returns to England for a funeral after a hiatus of 11 years.
In that time, Max Mephisto moved to the U.S., married movie star Lydia Lamont, and fathered two children. His British daughter, TV star of Ruby Magic, the product of an ancient affair, has a love/hate relationship with Max, who was absent most of her life. At the funeral for an old theatrical buddy, Max sees many friends, including Superintendent Edgar Stephens, a mate since their World War II service together, with whom he solved the murder of a woman he adored (The Vanishing Box, 2018). After the funeral, Edgar’s boss, DI Bob Willis, gets a call about a missing girl that plunges them into a difficult case tailor-made for Emma Holmes Stephens, a top policewoman before her marriage to Edgar. Although she loves her family, Emma finds life boring without the mental stimulation of police work. The vanished girl, Rhonda Miles, who comes from a wealthy family, is a student at Roedean, Emma’s alma mater. She left a note saying she was going to London, perhaps in the hope of meeting American movie star Bobby Hambro, who’s in England working on a film deal which may soon involve Max. Rhonda’s father insists she’s been kidnapped, something that’s happened before. But the view of the case changes when a reporter friend of Emma’s informs her that Sara Henratty and Louise Dawkins, two other women, both disappeared after leaving similar notes. Ambitious WPC Meg Connolly, sent to London in disguise, learns from Bobby’s fans that Rhonda had been approached by a photographer who suggested that she do some modeling. The link between the disappearances is confirmed by the body of Sara Henratty wearing Rhonda’s cloak and the discovery that they had all been asked to model. When Max's daughter Ruby also vanishes, Max and Emma resolve to find her while reflecting on their unsatisfactory lives.
A character-driven tale of troubled relationships in a rapidly changing 1960s England that’s wrapped in an excellent mystery.