A magician’s misdirections may provide the clue that solves three murders in 1950s Brighton.
DI Edgar Stephens and his team are desperately seeking two children who have gone missing. Twelve-year-old Mark Webster and his 13-year-old friend Annie Francis came home from school, went out to play, and vanished. When their snow-covered bodies are found, Stephens is desperate to find the killer. Along with sergeants Bob Willis and Emma Holmes, he canvasses the area, questioning everyone, including the owner of the sweets shop near the disappearance and the man the children call Uncle Brian, who has a theater set up in his garage. The investigation leaves Stephens scant time for his old friend Max Mephisto, a famous magician reduced to playing in a pantomime show on Brighton Pier, who wants to help. Not only did they serve together in World War II in a special group recruited by MI5 to fool the Germans, but Max helped Stephens solve a tough case (The Zig Zag Girl, 2015) when he first arrived to serve with the Brighton force. Annie, despite her lower-class background, was extremely bright and wrote plays that cast her friends and relatives. Stunning teacher Daphne Young encouraged her pupil’s talent in adapting gruesome versions of fairy tales. But before she can reveal something she realizes may help the police, she’s found strangled. Although the team follows every clue, including a possible tie to a 1912 theatrical murder, the solution remains tantalizingly out of reach.
A dazzlingly tricky mystery, oddball characters, and an authentic feel for life in post–World War II England.