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Clever period procedural with touch of theater magic

Smoke and Mirrors

by Elly Griffiths

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Mystery & Thrillers

Pub Date 20 September 2016


Smoke and Mirrors is an impressive mystery set in post WWII Britain. Elly Griffiths has done a wonderful job bringing the era to life complete with the uneasiness that accompanies major social and technological changes. Where Smoke and Mirrors departs from the standard police procedural is with the inclusion of Max Mephisto with his knowledge of theater and illusion. Max and Edgar worked together during the war in a unit devoted to using illusion and theatrical techniques to discourage the Germans. Their differing backgrounds make them an ideal pair of detectives. In Smoke and Mirrors the duo are reunited, working together to discover who kidnapped and murdered a pair of children, displaying their bodies ala Hansel and Gretel.

After the war, everything changed in Britain. Televisions began to take the place of live entertainment, and even skilled performers received less esteemed roles. Thus the magician Max Mephisto happens to be in Brighton when two children go missing. His wartime colleague DI Edgar Stephens has been assigned this case. The city's hopes are dashed when Anna and Mark are found strangled - a path of candies leading to their bodies. Anna was known for her plays based on fairy tales, and the scene has a distinct Hansel and Gretel air. Once again Max Mephisto and Edgar Stephens join forces in search of a heartless killer.

The case is far from straightforward. Suspects far outnumber the clues, and the heavy snowfalls plaguing Brighton make the case even more complicated. Smoke and Mirrors keeps readers thinking and guessing until the end.

Clever and thought provoking, Smoke and Mirrors is a thrilling mystery that was difficult to put down - a must read for those who enjoy WWII and post WWII mysteries.


I received a copy of Smoke and Mirrors from the publisher and in exchange for an honest review.



In the sequel to the "captivating"* Zig Zag Girl, DI Edgar Stephens and the magician Max Mephisto hunt for a killer after two children are murdered in a tragic tableau of a very grim fairy tale.

*Wall Street Journal

It's Christmastime in Brighton, and the city is abuzz about a local production of Aladdin, starring the marvelous Max Mephisto. But the holiday cheer is lost on DI Edgar Stephens. He's investigating the murder of two children, Annie and Mark, who were strangled to death in the woods, abandoned alongside a trail of candy—a horrifying scene eerily reminiscent of Hansel and Gretel. Edgar has plenty of leads to investigate. Annie, a surprisingly dark child, used to write gruesome plays based on the Grimms' fairy tales. Does the key to the case lie in her unfinished final script? Or does the macabre staging of Annie and Mark's deaths point to the theater and the capricious cast of characters performing in Aladdin? Once again Edgar enlists Max's help in penetrating the shadowy world of the theater. But is this all just classic misdirection?

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