Monday, December 02, 2019

Magicians and Mystery, in NOW YOU SEE THEM from Elly Griffiths

When Elly Griffiths opened her "Magic Men Mystery Series," the threads and tension drew on the experience of a team of illusionists, some professional, helping Britain protect itself from World War II bombings. How the men perceived what they'd done in the war and the echoes remaining in their postwar lives deepened the suspense.

With her fifth in the series, NOW YOU SEE THEM Griffiths has already arrived in the 1960s in her seacoast once-was-resort town of Brighton, and those wartime connections have little meaning. The book opens, in fact, with a funeral for The Great Diablo, and Edgar Stephens, now the Detective Superintendent for the city's police force, sees the adventures of his youth being buried too.

But at least Edgar still has crime investigation to do! For his wife Emma, who loved her work on the police force and who's now parenting three small children, even attending the funeral and seeing Max Mephisto there is painful, as she resents the loss of her main identity:
"So, Mrs. Stephens," said Max, "how's married life?"

"We've been married for ten years now," said Emma, rather tartly. She wasn't sure that she liked Max's new habit of calling her Mrs. Stephens. As a child she'd hated her maiden name, Holmes (the source of much teasing when she entered the police force), but now she rather missed it.
Emma also has reason to feel envious of the new young WPC (woman police constable) on the force, Maggie -- who in turn is sick of the way her colleagues hold up Emma as an unattainably heroic beauty.

These frictions push Emma into her own investigations as schoolgirls in the region begin to disappear, and eventually they tip the balance on how much she'll risk to pursue the criminal and reach the girls in time to prevent more than one murder.

Count on revelations about "mods and rockers," Brighton's smuggling history, and the art of magic -- along with as strong traditional mystery framework that lets Griffiths move into the terrain she's already established so well in her other series featuring archaeological specialist Ruth Galloway: the hard choices women face daily in balancing what they want from life. (There are hints that Griffiths will also tag men's choices in her next book, as Max Mephisto and his daughter Ruby work out their own fates in more detail.)

Griffiths is a polished, tight writer, and like her other books, NOW YOU SEE THEM provides a good share of astonishing revelations. Enjoy it as a holiday treat to yourself, and shelve with women sleuths, England, postwar, and sleight of hand.

PS:  Looking for more mystery reviews, from cozy to very dark? Browse the Kingdom Books mysteries review blog here.

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