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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 b 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.  


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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 b 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.  

30 review for The Vanishing Box

  1. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    Edgar and Max, once again find themselves in the midst of a murderer that threatens the safety of the girls performing in a show at the prestigious Hippodrome. It just so happens that Max and Ruby are the headliners, the first time they will perform together a father and daughter, at the same venue. Edgar of course and his team will be called on to investigate the murder of the first girl, a young girl staying at the same rooming house,xas many of the girls in the show. As the bodies begin to mu Edgar and Max, once again find themselves in the midst of a murderer that threatens the safety of the girls performing in a show at the prestigious Hippodrome. It just so happens that Max and Ruby are the headliners, the first time they will perform together a father and daughter, at the same venue. Edgar of course and his team will be called on to investigate the murder of the first girl, a young girl staying at the same rooming house,xas many of the girls in the show. As the bodies begin to multiply, Edgar and his team, are under pressure to find the villian responsible for these deaths. This is an author who has never let me down. This is her second series, and one that has a totally different appeal than that of her Ruth Galloway series. What they have in common though is characters that one comes to care about, become invested in their lives. This one combines police work with that of a Magician, Max Memphisto, and a time period where many things were changing. Brighton, 1950's, the war is over but people are still struggling to find their way in this new future. Variety shows are ending, the mainstay of the war years, when entertainment was key, helping to keep people's minds off the war and its effects. Television is becoming a factor, on it's way to replacing live shows, and Max and Ruby are taking their show to the television sphrre. Griffith has an amazing ability to place the reader firmly in time and place. Rooming houses, magic, variety shows, romances that change this time around, and a new, uncertain future looming. Both for the people in this time period, but also for our characters. An authors note at books end explains the history of the Hippidrome, originally erected as a skating venue, but never used as such. A well researched, meticulously rendered procedural. ARC from Edelweiss. soon.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Paromjit

    I really love this period crime series from Elly Griffiths featuring magician Max Mephisto and DI Edgar Stephens, close friends after serving as The Magic Men during the war. This is the fourth in the series, set in 1953. Max and his daughter, Ruby, are headlining at the Brighton Hippodrome in a variety show that features a controversial female nude tableau act run by Vic Cutler, deemed unseemly by so many and attracting considerable prurient interest. At a boarding house run by Edna and Norris, I really love this period crime series from Elly Griffiths featuring magician Max Mephisto and DI Edgar Stephens, close friends after serving as The Magic Men during the war. This is the fourth in the series, set in 1953. Max and his daughter, Ruby, are headlining at the Brighton Hippodrome in a variety show that features a controversial female nude tableau act run by Vic Cutler, deemed unseemly by so many and attracting considerable prurient interest. At a boarding house run by Edna and Norris, a shy and beautiful Brighton flower seller, Lily Burtenshaw, is found murdered, blindfolded and posed as Lady Jane Grey at her execution. Lily was friends with janette and Betty, members of the tableau act, also residing at the boarding house. Max finds himself drawn to the beautiful Florence Jones, another performer in the tableau, signalling the demise of his relationship with Mrs M., his landlady. Edgar, and his team of the bright DS Emma Holmes, in love with Edgar despite his engagement to Ruby, and DS Bob Willis, hunt for the killer and possible motives. Lily's mother, Cecily, had in the past worked as a tableau artist with Vic Cutler, her past connection with Norris and Edna, and is the reason why Lily ended up at the boarding house. Characters from previous novels make an appearance, Tol and his daughter, Astarte, tarot reader and psychic. As further murders take place, including that of another tableau player, posed as Cleopatra, DI Stephens races frantically to find the murderer before they kill again. This is a story of misdirection, an allusion of what takes place with the Vanishing Box, used by Max in his act with Ruby, and the past coming to haunt the present. DS Bob Willis finds himself being attracted to Betty and as Emma finds herself in deadly danger, it appears that at long last Edgar begins to become aware of his feelings for her. Elly brings 1950s Britain alive with her vivid descriptions, period detail and characters. The world of theatre variety is under threat with the growing impact of television and her portrayal of the Brighton Hippodrome and its variety show depicts this beautifully. Amidst a maelstrom of grief and loss, Max is looking for something more as his agent introduces him to a Hollywood agent looking to cast Max in a film. Ruby, having suffered a personal devastation, finds herself following the same path as Max. At long last, the ongoing misery that has afflicted Emma seems to be heading towards a happier resolution in her relationship with Edgar. I am not sure where this series will go next, but I look forward with great anticipation to the next in the series. Many thanks to Quercus for an ARC.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sandy *The world could end while I was reading and I would never notice*

    EXCERPT: Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens was looking at a dead body. He had seen death before, of course, in the war as well as in his police work but there was something about this corpse that made it especially disturbing. It wasn't just the stench that sent his Sargeant, Bob Willis, retching to the window. It wasn't just that the deceased was young, blonde and - even in the late stages of rigor mortis - beautiful. It was the way the body had been found. Lily Burtenshaw was kneeling on a to EXCERPT: Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens was looking at a dead body. He had seen death before, of course, in the war as well as in his police work but there was something about this corpse that made it especially disturbing. It wasn't just the stench that sent his Sargeant, Bob Willis, retching to the window. It wasn't just that the deceased was young, blonde and - even in the late stages of rigor mortis - beautiful. It was the way the body had been found. Lily Burtenshaw was kneeling on a towel beside her bed, a strip from a white sheet tied around her eyes and one hand stretched out towards a box in front of her. In order to keep the body in this unnatural position, the stretching hand had been tied onto a towel rail and the body roped to the back of a chair. Lily's blindfolded head dropped forward and her golden hair fell across one shoulder. She was wearing a white nightdress and her skin was also deadly white, except for the dark bruising around her neck. THE BLURB: What do a murdered Brighton flowerseller, the death of Cleopatra and a nude tableau show have in common? One thing's for sure - it could be the most dangerous case yet for Stephens and Mephisto Christmas 1953. Max Mephisto and his daughter Ruby are headlining Brighton Hippodrome, an achievement only slightly marred by the less-than-savoury support act: a tableau show of naked 'living statues'. This might appear to have nothing in common with DI Edgar Stephens' current case of the death of a quiet flowerseller, but if there's one thing the old comrades have learned it's that, in Brighton, the line between art and life - and death - is all too easily blurred... MY THOUGHTS: I really liked The Vanishing Box by Elly Griffiths. I have not previously read any of this series, only her Ruth Galloway series, which I also really liked. The fact that I had not read any of the other Stephens and Mephisto books did not in any way detract from my enjoyment of this one. This series has been compared to the Bryant and May series, which I have also read a number of, but so far I greatly prefer Griffiths writing. This is both a comfortable and engaging read, reminiscent of Agatha Christie. The setting is atmospheric, the characters engaging. There is enough romantic intrigue to make it interesting, but not enough to overwhelm the main storyline. A perfect balance. I look forward to more of this series. Thank you to Quercus via Netgalley for providing a digital copy of The Vanishing Box by Elly Griffiths for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own. Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the 'about' page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my blog sandysbookaday.wordpress.com https://sandysbookaday.wordpress.com/...

  4. 5 out of 5

    Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede

    I started to read Elly Griffith's Ruth Galloway series several years ago and I quite liked reading about an archaeologist involved in murder cases. So, when the first book in the Stephens & Mephisto Mystery was released was I curious to see how this series, set in the 50s would be. And, there is something quite pleasant and different with a crime series with a policeman and magician as "partners". Well, it's not like they work together, Max and Edgar were in the army together and now Edgar's wor I started to read Elly Griffith's Ruth Galloway series several years ago and I quite liked reading about an archaeologist involved in murder cases. So, when the first book in the Stephens & Mephisto Mystery was released was I curious to see how this series, set in the 50s would be. And, there is something quite pleasant and different with a crime series with a policeman and magician as "partners". Well, it's not like they work together, Max and Edgar were in the army together and now Edgar's work as a DI will sometimes need help from his old buddy, and btw the father of Edgar's fiance Ruby. This time is it the death of a young girl that starts off it all. Why would anyone want to kill an innocent and shy girl that works selling flowers in Brighton? While Edgar tries to solve the murder, are Max and Ruby performing together, but soon will Max be drawn into Edgar's world when more people get killed... The Vanishing Box is a pleasant book to read. Max and Edgar feel like old friends and I love the setting of the 50s England. The case is puzzling and tragic. I did find the story sometimes a bit slow, not that it was hard to focus on what was going on instead it was more like it just didn't grip me. Not even the end, when everything was revealed. Also, there is a kind of love triangle in this book and the development in this book with the three people felt a bit rushed. Still, I will definitely read the next book and see what's next for Edgar and Max. I want to thank the publisher for providing me with a free copy through NetGalley for an honest review!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Alex Cantone

    ‘Oh, you’re another Italian are you?’ said Diablo. ‘That’s probably why you get on so well with Max.’ ‘I’m Sicilian,’ said Joe. ‘A Sicilian is an Italian with a knife in each hand.’ The Vanishing Box is set in Brighton in late 1953, months after the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, and opens with the murder of a young woman, strangled in the room she rents in a boarding house, her body arranged to resemble the Victorian painting of Lady Jane Grey, who held the English throne for only 6 days befor ‘Oh, you’re another Italian are you?’ said Diablo. ‘That’s probably why you get on so well with Max.’ ‘I’m Sicilian,’ said Joe. ‘A Sicilian is an Italian with a knife in each hand.’ The Vanishing Box is set in Brighton in late 1953, months after the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, and opens with the murder of a young woman, strangled in the room she rents in a boarding house, her body arranged to resemble the Victorian painting of Lady Jane Grey, who held the English throne for only 6 days before behind executed and replaced by Mary, Queen of Scots. DI Edwin Stephens leads the investigation with his two DS’s - Emma and the shy Bob, interviewing the couple running the boarding house and the other boarders, two girls who work in a bank and two who are staying only a couple of weeks while they perform in a Living Tableau of famous women at the Hippodrome Theatre. The investigating team discover that the victim was a London girl, working in a local flower shop, and whose mother once worked in the variety theatre prior to her marriage. The victim had also visited the theatre to watch the girls rehearsing their tableau roles, keeping perfectly still and silent while wearing just enough to hide their genitals. The star act is magician Max Mephisto - appearing in a double act with his daughter Ruby - and a long-time friend of DI Stephens from when they served in a special unit in the war, the “Magic men”, using disinformation against the enemy. This book was a real treat to read, switching between the performances at the theatre and the murder inquiries. Author Elly Griffiths (noted for her Ruth Galloway series) brings out the mores and morals of the time, romances blossoming and fading and dark obsessions, and I loved the domestic details of a time when the English drank tea (not coffee), listened to the wireless (few homes had a television or a refrigerator), and entertainment was the picture theatre (the “Pictures”) or variety theatre. The blurb described it as in the vein of Agatha Christie and there were enough false leads to keep me guessing to the end. Can be read as a standalone, but I will certainly be looking out for others in the series.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Leah

    Staging a murder... It's a cold and snowy December in the Brighton of 1953, and magician Max Mephisto has top billing in the variety show at the Hippodrome, along with his new stage partner, his daughter Ruby. Ruby's fiancé, DI Edgar Stephens, has to put his plans to see the show on hold when a girl is found murdered in one of the many boarding houses in this seaside resort. Nineteen-year-old Lily Burtenshaw has been found strangled, with her body carefully posed to resemble a famous event from h Staging a murder... It's a cold and snowy December in the Brighton of 1953, and magician Max Mephisto has top billing in the variety show at the Hippodrome, along with his new stage partner, his daughter Ruby. Ruby's fiancé, DI Edgar Stephens, has to put his plans to see the show on hold when a girl is found murdered in one of the many boarding houses in this seaside resort. Nineteen-year-old Lily Burtenshaw has been found strangled, with her body carefully posed to resemble a famous event from history. This makes Edgar think of one of the other acts at the Hippodrome – a troupe of showgirls called Living Tableaux, who appear almost naked on stage in recreations of historical or artistic scenes, their blushes covered by a few strategically placed feathers and some unobtrusive flesh-coloured pants. Artistic, young DS Bob Willis thinks – or sleazy, in the opinion of his colleague DS Emma Holmes. The first task the detectives face, then, is to see if they can find a connection between Lily and the troupe... After the last book in the series took us off to London and America, I was pleased that this one returned to the theatre world of Brighton. Griffiths evokes both time and place convincingly, especially the itinerant life of the performers and the boarding houses they make their temporary homes. She's very good at showing how the paths of the show people cross and re-cross as they travel round the theatres of Britain, so that relationships are always being renewed or broken as bookings dictate. She shows the contrast between the seediness of backstage life and the glamour of performance, and how some love the travelling life while others see it as a short-term thing until they find something more settled. In both her series, Griffiths tends to concentrate on the romantic lives of her lead characters more than is usual in police procedurals. This is something that a lot of readers particularly like about her books. Personally I don't mind a bit of romance, but I find it's often given too much prominence for my taste in Griffiths' books, although I prefer the way she's handling it in this series. But in this book, it all becomes a little too much, with every main character being in love or lust with someone, relationships starting and ending and lots of low-level romantic angst. It might actually be quite a realistic portrayal since most of the leads are youngish and single, but it gives the book a cosy-ish feel which somehow takes away from the story of the crime. However, the plotting is strong and the story flows well so that it held my interest all the way through. It's more of a traditional length for a crime novel, thus avoiding the dreaded sagging middle – hurrah! And all three detectives are well-drawn and likeable – I enjoyed seeing Bob getting a bigger role in this one, and I was relieved that Emma didn't spend too much of her time battling sexism (a theme with which I'm bored rigid). I did feel that Griffiths had to stretch a bit to make Max relevant to the plotting – if the series continues, it's going to get progressively harder to work him in believably each time. Much though I like him, I'm kinda hoping that the development of Emma and Bob as stronger characters might allow Max to fade out a bit, leaving this as a more traditional police-based series, focused on Edgar and his team. So overall, another strong entry in this enjoyable series – well researched, well plotted, well written. My criticism of the romantic angle is, I know, entirely subjective – Griffiths does it very well, and while it's a weakness for me, I'm sure it will be strength for people who enjoy that aspect more. And otherwise, I like these characters very much and love the post-war Brighton setting. I hope there's more to come... NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Quercus. www.fictionfanblog.wordpress.com

  7. 5 out of 5

    ABCme

    Thank you Netgalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the ARC I fully enjoyed spending some time in Brighton's 1950's. The story moves between the historic Hippodrome Variety Hall and a crowded boarding house and gives a good insight in community life at the time. The characters are quirky and fun despite the turnmoil they find themselves in. The mystery runs almost to the end of the book before revealing itself, leaving the reader guessing all the way. The Vanishing Box is a pleasantly paced, wel Thank you Netgalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the ARC I fully enjoyed spending some time in Brighton's 1950's. The story moves between the historic Hippodrome Variety Hall and a crowded boarding house and gives a good insight in community life at the time. The characters are quirky and fun despite the turnmoil they find themselves in. The mystery runs almost to the end of the book before revealing itself, leaving the reader guessing all the way. The Vanishing Box is a pleasantly paced, well written cosy murder mystery with the tiniest bit of added romance. A delightful read.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Bruce Hatton

    I've been hooked on this series since the first book The Zig Zag Girl and this, the fourth in the series, is probably the most engrossing and thrilling yet. Taking place in the run up to Christmas 1953, DI Edgar Stephens finds his latest case (the murder of a young florist) has theatrical connections, so he naturally turns to his old pal from the war years Max Mephisto for assistance. Once again, Elly manages to capture the seedy atmosphere of post-war Brighton perfectly and there is yet another I've been hooked on this series since the first book The Zig Zag Girl and this, the fourth in the series, is probably the most engrossing and thrilling yet. Taking place in the run up to Christmas 1953, DI Edgar Stephens finds his latest case (the murder of a young florist) has theatrical connections, so he naturally turns to his old pal from the war years Max Mephisto for assistance. Once again, Elly manages to capture the seedy atmosphere of post-war Brighton perfectly and there is yet another cast of eccentric and memorable characters. As well as a nail-biting finale, towards the end of the novel we learn of unexpected and radical developments in the romantic lives of not just Ed and Max, but Ruby and Emma too. This book delights on so many levels. Now, I just hope we don't have to wait too long for the fifth book in the series.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    Happy Publication Day Elly Griffiths. The Vanishing Box, the fourth novel set in post 2nd world war Brighton, has been released upon the nation. Set just before Christmas 1953 the author has produced another crime thriller against the lucious background of musical hall and variety theatre. Despite the obvious decline of such productions here Max Mephisto & his daughter Ruby are headlining the show which is playing to full houses. The detective in these mysteries is DI Edgar Stephens as war time a Happy Publication Day Elly Griffiths. The Vanishing Box, the fourth novel set in post 2nd world war Brighton, has been released upon the nation. Set just before Christmas 1953 the author has produced another crime thriller against the lucious background of musical hall and variety theatre. Despite the obvious decline of such productions here Max Mephisto & his daughter Ruby are headlining the show which is playing to full houses. The detective in these mysteries is DI Edgar Stephens as war time associate of Max and now engaged to his new found daughter, Ruby. They have become known as the Stephens & Mephisto series, although I prefer to abbreviate to the S&M books. Elly has a definate love for this once popular entertainment which was strangled by the introduction of TV and cheap talking movies, coming to a cinema near you. She fully immerses the reader into the life of these travelling artists who played across the country and relied on digs for the week and made their temporary home in lodgings run for this purpose by strong landladies in the main. The Vanishing Box alludes to Max & Ruby's magic show and a trick they utilise fully as part of their new double act. They share the bill with the usual range of acts trying to change with the times and be spotted for a break in television. Closing the first half of the show is a very risque form of performance a the living tableaux act where very little concealment other than feathers and flowers prevents nudity by the young women involved from appearing naked. The audience gets an eyeful at every show but for the careful lighting and the discret props. Apparently it bacame overtly rude and lascivious if the girls moved so under the darkness of the stage before the lights went back up the troop repositioned themselves and were unable to move. It this manner the act consisted of a few historical scenes often representing femme fatales or death scenes. Obviously the theatre gets both a negative press in some quarters, while it's seats are filled with the interested and often lewd minded audience. The problems for Stephens are magnified when at a guesthouse where two of the showgirls are staying a young florist is murdered in bizare circumstances; the body almost posed for a wider audience. There seems to be a link and the detectives work round the clock to establish who committed such a vile crime, aware that they could strike again and these performers most of whom are staying in lodgings could be next. Elly's writing here is in these books seems more liberated than the the gentle Ruth Galloway mysteries set in modern day Norfolk; or family oriented series written in her own name, Domenica de Rosa. Although it is a throw back in time there seems to be more spice and goings on of a sexual nature. A good deal of nudity, which other than perhaps Cathbad which make Nelson for one blush. Not that the writing is ever seedy, gratuitous or particularly graphic. I believe Elly writes relationships so well and in tension that sexual chemistry abounds between Ruth and Nelson in her other main series. It is just here in a past generation that she seems able to allude to things more in the imagination and with an innocence that television and film portrayals, not even regarding the access to the internet and porn. That she is able to write about human interactions with a freedom and sensitivity that brings an edge and a tingle to scenes, especially when a murderer has usurped more honest relationships into something base and less worthy. There is also the more simplistic detective work; interviewing and obtaining statements. It makes for a pleasant read pitched after early detectives and pre computers and CSI. It is good that the DI is seen as a thinker and an innovator who likes to record crime scenes by extensive photographing. What makes the stories really hum and carry the reader are the great relationship the author has created, that have developed over these four instalments and promise much more if the series continues. I like the tension between the two DSs and their different motivations and desires to catch the DI's attention. Humour abounds and is needed in some dark acts and murders within; I like that details are not over stated but more reported on and that people seem less complicated. There is no glorifying of the villians or getting inside their heads; the motive becomes clear and as with all good crime writing the author is able to surprise and misdirect. Above all else, Elly is a great storyteller and whatever of her books you pick up I guarantee enjoyment and some enlightenment whether through location, historical events or dialogue. She writes to express her ideas and tell excellent stories but she cannot conceal her immense talent. I warmly recommend this novel as with all her work and wonder where you've been looking if you haven't already read one of her books. Pick one up, turn the first page you will not be disappointed.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    As many will be aware, Elly Griffiths has two book series in publication, The Ruth Galloway stories and this series, Stephens and Mephisto. I have been collecting most of both series’ over time but this is the first of the Stephens and Mephisto I have read – and I’m jumping in at book 4! Why do I do this to myself! Although I will definitely go back and read the previous books in the series, because I enjoyed this one so much, I didn’t actually feel at a huge disadvantage by not reading the other As many will be aware, Elly Griffiths has two book series in publication, The Ruth Galloway stories and this series, Stephens and Mephisto. I have been collecting most of both series’ over time but this is the first of the Stephens and Mephisto I have read – and I’m jumping in at book 4! Why do I do this to myself! Although I will definitely go back and read the previous books in the series, because I enjoyed this one so much, I didn’t actually feel at a huge disadvantage by not reading the others. I may have missed out on character development but enough backstory is given throughout to make this an enjoyable reading experience Set in the early 1950’s, this story could have been the love child of Dixon of Dock Green and Heartbeat. No computers, no mobile phones, no CSI teams or DNA profiling, bobbies on bicycles – it brings it home how very different policing was then compared to the high speed modern policing methods that we take for granted today. I very much doubt you would get a modern day detective taking a box brownie camera to photograph a crime scene as Edgar Stephens did here! The story is set in Brighton and the author does a convincing job of describing the setting and location, including the main venue, the Brighton Hippodrome; the faded glamour of the public part of the theatre compared to the dark and dingy backstage areas. Set in winter, the snow and icy conditions do their best to hinder the investigation. Max and Edgar first met during the war and have continued their friendship – the magician and the detective – such an unusual pairing. Although this is a murder mystery, there is gentle quality to the writing and the story is reminiscent of a Golden Age mystery. Griffiths spares no details when describing a crime scene but nothing is unduly graphic or gratuitous. It is December 1953 and magicians Max Mephisto and his daughter Ruby French are the stars of a two week variety show at the Brighton Hippodrome. ‘The Vanishing Box’ of the title, being part of their act. As well as a comedian and ventriloquist, the performers include a group of young girls who perform a living tableau show comprising of near naked women posing as statues of historical figures, with only strategically placed feathers to hide their modesty. There are of course people who are outraged by such vulgarity but would such a show really incite someone to commit murder? The first murder occurs at a lodging house where some of the show girls stay. The murderer has staged the body to represent a painting and DI Edgar Stephens and his colleagues Sergeants Emma Holmes and Bob Willis are at a loss to understand why an innocent young woman who works in a flower shop has been killed. When further murders occur, similarly staged, the race is on to find out who and why. Max Mephisto is in his mid 40s and is an intriguing character, it felt as though he had come to a crossroads, both in his personal and professional life. No doubt his character has been built up from the previous books and this is one reason why I want to catch up. He appears to have acquired a grown up daughter from a previous relationship and although they work well together on stage, the personal relationship between him and Ruby feels a little awkward at times, as if they are still getting used to each other. To make the connection with Mephisto and the detective even more complicated, Ruby is engaged to DI Edgar Stephens – surely a conflict of interests at times there! I actually didn’t have a clue who the murderer was, the red herrings and subtle misdirection certainly fooled me. Griffiths does a really good job of keeping the interest and suspense going throughout whilst evoking the period atmosphere of the 1950s. As a crime story with a bygone feel to it, one to recommend. I certainly enjoyed it.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Clare

    Listened to in audio format. The Vanishing Box is the fourth book in the DCI Edgar Stephens and Max Mephisto mysteries. The series is written by Elly Griffiths who writes the long running Ruth Galloway series. The story starts with Stephen's and his sergeants Emma Holmes and Bob Willis at a murder scene. Florist Lily Burtonshaw was found murdered in her rented digs, she was found blindfolded her body posed. Meanwhile magician Max Mephisto and his daughter Ruby are the headline act at the Brighton Listened to in audio format. The Vanishing Box is the fourth book in the DCI Edgar Stephens and Max Mephisto mysteries. The series is written by Elly Griffiths who writes the long running Ruth Galloway series. The story starts with Stephen's and his sergeants Emma Holmes and Bob Willis at a murder scene. Florist Lily Burtonshaw was found murdered in her rented digs, she was found blindfolded her body posed. Meanwhile magician Max Mephisto and his daughter Ruby are the headline act at the Brighton Hippodrome. Another of the shows performers are called Living Tableaux who are managed by the seedy Vic Cutler. They are a group of young women who act out pivotal moments in history in the nude. Coincidentally Lily Burtonshaw lived in the same boarding house as two of the living tableaux girls Janette and Betty. Days later Vic Cutler is found murdered in his flat, again his body posed from a time in history. When his mistress Florence is found murdered in Vic's flat, Stephens and the team have to discover if Lilly's murder was connected to Vic Cutler and Florence. During the investigation Emma's life is put in danger, in shock Stephens realises his true feelings for Emma. I mentioned in my previous review that Stephens and his fiancee Ruby were ill suited. I suspect that Ruby will move to America and she will only be fleetingly mentioned in further books. I would recommend this series to anyone. Elly Griffiths weaved another compelling storyline with plenty of red herrings. Even thought the story is set in the 1950s before proper forensics and DNA the crimes are solved by old fashioned policing. I enjoyed the theatre scenes and could imagine Max Mephisto's magic act I look forward to book 5 and see what happens next with Emma and Stephens.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    Why have I never read this series before?! I adored this. A review: https://forwinternights.wordpress.com... Why have I never read this series before?! I adored this. A review: https://forwinternights.wordpress.com...

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lee

    The case for DI Edgar Stephens this time is the murder of a young girl whose body was disturbingly posed by the killer post-mortem. Edgar realises the killer's manipulation of the body reminds him of an act which is currently on the same bill as his magician friend, Max Mephisto. This ‘Living Tableau’ act is a group of women who strike historical poses while wearing next to nothing -- sort of a thinking man’s peep show. The girls keep completely still whilst striking their famous poses, thus get The case for DI Edgar Stephens this time is the murder of a young girl whose body was disturbingly posed by the killer post-mortem. Edgar realises the killer's manipulation of the body reminds him of an act which is currently on the same bill as his magician friend, Max Mephisto. This ‘Living Tableau’ act is a group of women who strike historical poses while wearing next to nothing -- sort of a thinking man’s peep show. The girls keep completely still whilst striking their famous poses, thus getting around the censorship laws which deemed performers could only be naked on stage if they didn’t move. I assume this was really a thing and the group was based on some real life act. Fascinating stuff! For anyone trying to solve the case, Griffiths has a plethora of potential victims and suspects with this performing trope, the fellow tenants of the boarding house where the victim was found, and the theatre's remaining cast and crew. It also brought in the connection to Max. I felt this should have been enough but Griffiths pushed Max into a secondary plot for no particular reason. Instead of Max and the girls simply sharing the stage keeping him involved in the mystery plot, Griffiths also introduced a romance between him and one of the girls. This created a needless love triangle which made me a little sad, considering how sweet his romance from the previous book had been. Griffiths loves her love triangles though! Much to my dismay, she continues on with the Edgar/Emma/Ruby one. Emma’s role within the police ranks also continues to dismay me. I have decided it’s best for me to just suspend belief and keep reading as if it really was possible for a female detective with such seniority and responsibilities to exist in the 1950’s. If I do that, I find myself actually enjoying her character. As in the previous installments, I once again enjoyed the insights into the magic tricks and behind the scenes of the stage shows. The book is full of fun facts about variety shows from the time and how they were struggling with the introduction of TV. I loved the first book in this series but then was disappointed by the subsequent installments. Thinking now about all this one's flaws, I should say it was an average read but, somehow, I actually really enjoyed it, prompting my 4 out of 5 mark and vow to keep reading on with the series.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sandra

    Another excellent installment in this series (as I suspected it would be). Could just be me, but this feels lighter then most mysteries I've read recently. Could be the seaside setting or the theatre crowd, probably a bit of both, but it just takes the edge stories that could be very bitter. After all, in this case the killer was feeling a bit artsy, but death is death so it can feel draining. None the less Elly Griffiths always finds a way to work around that and makes me want to keep turning the Another excellent installment in this series (as I suspected it would be). Could just be me, but this feels lighter then most mysteries I've read recently. Could be the seaside setting or the theatre crowd, probably a bit of both, but it just takes the edge stories that could be very bitter. After all, in this case the killer was feeling a bit artsy, but death is death so it can feel draining. None the less Elly Griffiths always finds a way to work around that and makes me want to keep turning the page. As to the characters, again they are believable for their time and place and I don't think there are any that I genuinely don't like. For many of these there were big changes coming, but that wasn't exactly a shock since there has been such nice and slightly low key build up towards this. I thought it was well done. As always I'm looking forward to the next one in the series.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Susan Johnson

    Max Mephisto is a famous magician and is friends with Edgar, a policeman in Brighton. They met in WWII when they were in a special unit doing magical illusions against Germany. Edgar is now engaged to Max's newly discovered daughter, Ruby, who is Max's assistant. A young girl is discovered murdered in a bizarre pose in a lodging that houses theater performers. The pose is right out of one of the acts on Max's show. Then there's another murder and another. A show performer is killed and the mana Max Mephisto is a famous magician and is friends with Edgar, a policeman in Brighton. They met in WWII when they were in a special unit doing magical illusions against Germany. Edgar is now engaged to Max's newly discovered daughter, Ruby, who is Max's assistant. A young girl is discovered murdered in a bizarre pose in a lodging that houses theater performers. The pose is right out of one of the acts on Max's show. Then there's another murder and another. A show performer is killed and the manager of one of the acts. How do they connect to the first one? I really like the time period and the characters. They are well developed and quite interesting. Max and Edgar's love lives turn very interesting and even Bob, a fellow cop, starts dating tentatively. There's plenty going on. I came to this author through her excellent Ruth Galloway series. I am two minds about this series. I like it alright and yet I sort of resent it. I hate that it takes time away from writing a new Ruth Galloway. Then I think maybe it recharges her. This is a likable series full of interesting history but it's not Galloway. Sigh. Thanks to Net Galley and the author for a copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Elaine Tomasso

    I would like to thank Netgalley and Quercus Books for an advance copy of The Vanishing Box, the fourth novel in the Stephens and Mephisto series of detective novels set in 1950s Brighton. It's Decmber 1953 when DI Edgar Stephens and his team are called out to a murder. Lily Burtenshaw has been found strangled and posed in her boardinghouse room. Coincidentally two of Lily's fellow boarders pose naked as living statues in tableaux at the local theatre where Max Mephisto and his daughter Ruby are t I would like to thank Netgalley and Quercus Books for an advance copy of The Vanishing Box, the fourth novel in the Stephens and Mephisto series of detective novels set in 1950s Brighton. It's Decmber 1953 when DI Edgar Stephens and his team are called out to a murder. Lily Burtenshaw has been found strangled and posed in her boardinghouse room. Coincidentally two of Lily's fellow boarders pose naked as living statues in tableaux at the local theatre where Max Mephisto and his daughter Ruby are top of the bill. I thoroughly enjoyed The Vanishing Box with its glimpses of a bygone era, excellent characterisation and twisty plot. I'm a big fan of Ms Griiffiths's writing and this is no different. It has a welcoming tone which invites the reader to immerse themselves in another world and a well paced plot which holds the interest. As ever, characterisation is key in the novel, not just the main players but the minor ones as well who are equally multifaceted. Just when you think you know a character as a type they do something unexpected to confound you. The main characters, DI Edgar Stephens, DS Emma Holmes, DS Bob Willis, Max Mephisto and Ruby French are becoming like old friends as the series progresses but nothing stays the same and Ms Griffiths is ringing some changes in their relationships. It makes for good reading as the reader lives their hopes and fears with them. The plot is interesting and a real puzzle. The reader knows as much as the police and nothing more (so refreshing when so many novels feel the need to over inform the reader with several points of view) so the perpetrator and the motive are elusive until the end. I didn't have a clue. The setting seems authentic from the attitudes to the little details, like most houses not having one of the new washing machines or women wearing trousers being not quite the thing. It all adds up to a compelling snapshot of the "good old days". The Vanishing Box is a good read which I have no hesitation in recommending.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Joanne Sheppard

    The latest book in Elly Griffiths' Stephens and Mephisto series, The Vanishing Box might actually be my favourite of the four. It combines a gripping and really rather dark murder mystery with a strong sense of period atmosphere and immensely likeable characters in whom, after four books, I now feel strongly invested. It's winter in 1950s Brighton and magician Max Mephisto is topping the bill at a variety theatre, supported by his daughter Ruby, a promising magician in her own right with whom Max The latest book in Elly Griffiths' Stephens and Mephisto series, The Vanishing Box might actually be my favourite of the four. It combines a gripping and really rather dark murder mystery with a strong sense of period atmosphere and immensely likeable characters in whom, after four books, I now feel strongly invested. It's winter in 1950s Brighton and magician Max Mephisto is topping the bill at a variety theatre, supported by his daughter Ruby, a promising magician in her own right with whom Max now shares a brash young agent. Also on the bill along with the usual ventriloquists, comedians and performing poodles, is a 'tableau' act in which almost naked women pose motionless to recreate famous works of art - if they don't move, they aren't breaking any obscenity laws by being topless. Most of the tableau girls are sharing digs at a boarding house also occupied by some permanent residents, including a shy young florist called Lily. When Lily is found murdered in a grotesque parody of one of the tableaux, Max's best friend (and awkwardly, son-in-law-to-be) DI Edgar Stephens is summoned to investigate along with his loyal sergeants Bob and Emma. The whodunnit plot that follows is an absorbing one, with numerous potential suspects and plenty of red herrings, but it's the development of the characters I enjoyed most, with one moment in particular almost bringing a tear to my eye. The previous novel in the series saw Emma Holmes fighting a bad case of unrequited love for Edgar, and this storyline continues into The Vanishing Box. Max's relationship with Ruby continues to be fascinating too - as much as he wants to be a father to her after years of being unaware of her existence, he also slightly resents sharing the limelight with her on stage and while he feels protective of her, his general tendency towards detachment makes him entertainingly objective when it comes to her faults. This is a tremendously atmospheric read too - you can almost feel the freezing coastal wind whipping up the snowflakes along the promenade, and the theatre scenes are gloriously evocative of variety on the cusp of decline. My only slight concern is that, unlike its predecessors, The Vanishing Box ends with very few unresolved character development issues, which makes me wonder if this is the last in the Stephens and Mephisto series. I hope it isn't, but if it is, it's certainly concluded on a high note.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Geoff. Lamb

    These voyages of Max and Edgar (or Edgar and Max) are superb, none more so that this current outing, The Vanishing Box. Brighton (and Hove) in the 1950s. The characters, both main and supporting (in an opera, 'comprimario'), come alive. It may be the truest test of a novel and its characters to engage that one wants immediately the next story. This reader would much rather another Stephens & Mephisto mystery straight away than another Ruth Galloway (the latter seeming to have run its course). These voyages of Max and Edgar (or Edgar and Max) are superb, none more so that this current outing, The Vanishing Box. Brighton (and Hove) in the 1950s. The characters, both main and supporting (in an opera, 'comprimario'), come alive. It may be the truest test of a novel and its characters to engage that one wants immediately the next story. This reader would much rather another Stephens & Mephisto mystery straight away than another Ruth Galloway (the latter seeming to have run its course).

  19. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    Now I have got to know the characters in this series, I really enjoy them. An easy read, plenty of dead bodies and the mystery always solved!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Trudy

    3.5 stars. Enjoyed this mystery, its characters and setting

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    The U.S. publication of The Vanishing Box is not until September 2018, and my review will be posted here on GoodReads slightly before that. To see an earlier posting of this amazing new Stephens and Mephisto book, go to my reading blog http://www.readingroom-readmore.com/2... The U.S. publication of The Vanishing Box is not until September 2018, and my review will be posted here on GoodReads slightly before that. To see an earlier posting of this amazing new Stephens and Mephisto book, go to my reading blog http://www.readingroom-readmore.com/2...

  22. 4 out of 5

    Cold War Conversations Podcast

    Another excellent, impeccably researched and atmospheric crime thriller from Elly Griffiths This is the fourth outing of the “Magic Men” and it's great to be back with the rich cast of characters. Christmas 1953. Max Mephisto and his daughter Ruby are headlining Brighton Hippodrome as a murder takes place in a guest house used by some of the girls in the show . Max's friend from their wartime days and Ruby's fiancee DI Edgar Stephens investigates. Loads of strong characters here and excellent perio Another excellent, impeccably researched and atmospheric crime thriller from Elly Griffiths This is the fourth outing of the “Magic Men” and it's great to be back with the rich cast of characters. Christmas 1953. Max Mephisto and his daughter Ruby are headlining Brighton Hippodrome as a murder takes place in a guest house used by some of the girls in the show . Max's friend from their wartime days and Ruby's fiancee DI Edgar Stephens investigates. Loads of strong characters here and excellent period details that provide and enjoyable and compelling British whodunit. Elly Griffiths continues to capture a seedy, down at heel feel of 1950's Brighton expertly creating another highly readable atmospheric crime thriller, with a great sense of time and place, but is the end of the "magic men"........? - I hope not! My thanks go to NetGalley and the Publisher for the chance to read an advance copy of this book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Cressida McLaughlin

    I have given up trying to make Elly Griffiths’ books last more than a day. They are TOO GOOD. This one was my favourite of the Stephens and Mephisto books so far, and I hope it’s not the last! Reading one of Elly’s books makes me feel that all is right with the world. LOVED it!

  24. 4 out of 5

    LJ

    First Sentence: It was like being in a forest of frozen women. Magician Max Mephisto and his daughter Ruby are headlining at the Hippodrome Theater in Brighton. 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 a number of young women who appear in tableaus of nearly-naked "living statues." With the murder of a tableau girl, Max joins forces with Edgar, as well as Sergeants Bob First Sentence: It was like being in a forest of frozen women. Magician Max Mephisto and his daughter Ruby are headlining at the Hippodrome Theater in Brighton. 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 a number of young women who appear in tableaus of nearly-naked "living statues." With the murder of a tableau girl, Max joins forces with Edgar, as well as Sergeants Bob Willes and Emma Holmes to find a killer. How nice that we are introduced to the majority of major characters within the first few pages, as well as how they all fit together. However, even the characters which come later are neatly slotted into place. It is interesting having the two elements of the police investigation and the theatre company. How very human, and a bit predictable, that Emma has a tendre for Edgar, and that there is a wonderful description as to why people perform—"…Max longed to be out there, alone on stage in the circle of light. This was why you performed: why you put up with the travelling, the depressing digs, the eccentric pros, the loneliness, the lack of security. This moment, waiting in the wings for your entrance, the stage empty but charged with a magic more potent than anything Max could create." Griffiths has a lovely way with words—"But, by and large, variety performers were a solitary bunch, moving from town to town with their belongings on their backs. Like snails, except that they didn't leave a trail."—and with descriptions—"Cutler wasn't exactly ugly but there was a darkness about him, something also Mephistophelean." There's nothing like a good "ah ha!" moment. The one when Emma reveals the connection to the murder scene is particularly effective. It also establishes the story link among Edgar, the police and Max. Griffiths does provide interesting background information on Edgar. Rather than slowing down the story, it provides dimension to the character—"'He's a rarity,' said Max. 'A completely honest man.'" There are interesting secondary characters, such as Peter Entwhistle, the elderly border. His telling of his experience from Ypres during WWI is particularly moving. However, background on many of the characters comes late and in small bits. One knows who they are more by gleaning the information rather than being told. For new readers, this can be frustrating. The book is over-long but does have some very good moments. It just needed tightening down. "The Vanishing Box" includes very clever plotting with Max travelling down one path of the investigation and the police down another. The ending contains a very good sense of urgency and a summation that makes sense, as well as a lovely gesture. THE VANISHING BOX (PolProc-DI Edgar Stephens/Max Mephisto-Brighton-1953) - Good Griffiths, Elly – 4th in series Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – Oct 2018

  25. 4 out of 5

    J.R.

    The staged murder of a young florist reminds DI Edgar Stephens of the tableau show currently running at Brighton's Hippodrome, where his magician friend Max Mephisto and daughter Ruby are the star act. The body of Lily Burtenshaw, the victim, has been posed to resemble a painting of the execution of Lady Jane Grey, a fact pointed out by Edgar's able detective sergeant Emma Holmes. Stephens is quick to realize two other young women in the same boarding house where the victim lived are actresses in The staged murder of a young florist reminds DI Edgar Stephens of the tableau show currently running at Brighton's Hippodrome, where his magician friend Max Mephisto and daughter Ruby are the star act. The body of Lily Burtenshaw, the victim, has been posed to resemble a painting of the execution of Lady Jane Grey, a fact pointed out by Edgar's able detective sergeant Emma Holmes. Stephens is quick to realize two other young women in the same boarding house where the victim lived are actresses in the "living statues" act at the theater. Investigation soon discloses Lily's mother is a former actress who also once stayed at the boarding house. Yet, despite these seeming coincidences, Edgar sees no immediate connection between the murder and the tableau act. Then two more murders occur, both of which directly involve the theater troupe. One of the victims is an actress with whom Max Mephisto had become enamored, a relationship threatening to end his long association with Mrs. M, his landlady. I'm not sold on the motivation for the murders, but I can't go into detail without posing a spoiler. As in other novels in this series, Griffiths paints a portrait of everyday life in 1950s Britain, provides an engaging look at period theatrical life and gives a glimpse of police procedural techniques of the time. I'm still not as enamored of this series as I am of her Ruth Galloway books, but that's a personal issue and not a criticism.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Maxine

    It’s Christmas 1953 and magician Max Mephisto and his daughter, Ruby, are headlining at the Brighton Hippodrome. Among the other acts is a risqué tableau in which near-naked women pose as statues of historic figures. When beautiful florist, Lily Burtenshaw, is found strangled and posed to resemble a famous picture of Lady Jane Grey at her execution, Max’s friend and Ruby’s fiancé, DI Edgar Stephens is called in to investigate. He begins to suspect that the murderer may have some connection to th It’s Christmas 1953 and magician Max Mephisto and his daughter, Ruby, are headlining at the Brighton Hippodrome. Among the other acts is a risqué tableau in which near-naked women pose as statues of historic figures. When beautiful florist, Lily Burtenshaw, is found strangled and posed to resemble a famous picture of Lady Jane Grey at her execution, Max’s friend and Ruby’s fiancé, DI Edgar Stephens is called in to investigate. He begins to suspect that the murderer may have some connection to the tableau act, especially after he learns that Lily was friends with two of the women from the act who live at the same boarding house. There’s plenty going on in Elly Griffith’s book, The Vanishing Box, the fourth in the Stephens & Mephisto Mystery series including several romances – it seems like every major character including Max and Edgar are entering new romantic adventures. I’m not normally a fan of romance and I found this somewhat distracting from the mystery itself but, then again, given that this is a mystery marked by sleight-of-hand and, of course, distraction, it does seem to serve a purpose beyond just romance for the sake of romance. I have read and enjoyed several of Elly Griffith’s books and this is no exception. It is well-written and with an interesting story. Griffiths seems to understand the time period and its mores and, most important, the mystery is unusual and kept me guessing. The pacing is at times a bit slow, not unusual since The Vanishing Box is a historical cosy and, as such, the plot is more character- than action-driven but, for those who enjoy cosies and are looking for something a bit different, this is a very entertaining series. Thanks to Edelweiss+ and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review

  27. 4 out of 5

    Heather Fineisen

    Another winning series by Griffith' s that has piqued my interest with just one book. This series involves a magician who is best friends with a member of the police. Showgirl are being murdered and relationships are explored. Good character development. I will be going back and reading from the first title. Copy provided by the Publisher and NetGalley

  28. 5 out of 5

    Les Wilson

    A first class read. I do enjoy Elly Giffiths.

  29. 5 out of 5

    J Fearnley

    Set in 1953 in Brighton it is approaching Christmas – the lights and decorations are going up and the snow is falling. Max Mephisto and his daughter Ruby are starring at the Hippodrome. Ruby is engaged to DI Edgar Stephens. Edgar is looking forward to seeing the show when a call comes through – a young women, Lily Burtonshaw, has been found dead, strangely posed in her room at a Hove boarding house. He and his team, Sergeants Emma Holmes and Bob Willis are on the trail of a murderer. As Edgar, Em Set in 1953 in Brighton it is approaching Christmas – the lights and decorations are going up and the snow is falling. Max Mephisto and his daughter Ruby are starring at the Hippodrome. Ruby is engaged to DI Edgar Stephens. Edgar is looking forward to seeing the show when a call comes through – a young women, Lily Burtonshaw, has been found dead, strangely posed in her room at a Hove boarding house. He and his team, Sergeants Emma Holmes and Bob Willis are on the trail of a murderer. As Edgar, Emma and Bob investigate connections emerge to the artistes at the Hippodrome, two were residing at the same boarding house, and then there are more murders which appear to strengthen the links. Elly Griffiths evokes a wonderful picture of the 1950s and of Brighton her characters have the maturity of a fourth book in the series and are very believable, their personal hopes are part of the storyline but don’t distract from the main plot. The story line has it’s twists and turns. There are several murders and they have to be solved one way or another. This is no cozy mystery nor is this book grisly but it is a murder mystery and it is about detective work. Very well written Elly Griffiths leads you through the maze of misdirection bringing you to a tense and thrilling conclusion. I thought this was a terrific read and would certainly recommend it. With thanks to Quercus Publishing via NetGalley who provided me with an e-ARC in return for an honest opinion. Rating: 4*

  30. 4 out of 5

    Puzzle Doctor

    Fans of the series will enjoy this one. Full review at classicmystery.wordpress.com

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