One of Entertainment Weekly's 10 Great Fall Thrillers
"Clever, immensely likeable...Captivating." —The Wall Street Journal
In the first installment of a compelling new series by Elly Griffiths featuring Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens and the magnificent Max Mephisto, a band of magicians who served together in World War II track a killer who’s performing their deadly tricks.
Brighton, 1950. The body of a girl is found cut into three pieces. Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens is convinced the killer is mimicking a famous magic trick—the Zig Zag Girl. The inventor of the trick, Max Mephisto, is an old war friend of Edgar’s. They served together in a shadowy unit called the Magic Men, a special ops troop that used stage tricks to confound the enemy. Max is on the traveling show circuit, touring seaside towns with ventriloquists, sword-swallowers and dancing girls. He’s reluctant to leave this world to help Edgar investigate, but advises him to identify the victim quickly — it takes a special sidekick to do the Zig Zag Girl. Those words come back to haunt Max when the dead girl turns out to be Ethel, one of his best assistants to date. He’s soon at Edgar’s side, hunting for Ethel’s killer. Another death, another magic trick: Edgar and Max are sure the answer to the murders lies in their army days. And when Edgar receives a letter warning of another “trick” on the way — the Wolf Trap — he knows they’re all in the killer’s sights.
Mary Higgins Clark Award winner Griffiths (The Crossing Places) launches a new series with this engaging mystery set in Brighton, England, in 1950. The Magic Men, a group of stage magicians who performed special missions during WWII, have since gone their separate ways. Only one, Max Mephisto, is still earning top billing on the variety circuit. Others have become a police officer, a wisecracking comedian, a carpenter. The oldest of the group has drifted lower and lower in the profession, performing to bored audiences in sleazy strip clubs. The gruesome murder of a glamorous magician's stage assistant draws the former team back together. The portrayal of the backstage life and the onstage performances of illusionists forms a fascinating backdrop to the main action. Brief flashbacks to the Magic Men's wartime missions provide an equally gripping backstory. As the plot deepens, Griffiths's tone darkens, leading to a series of surprise twists. Readers will look forward to seeing a lot more of Max and company.