Format: Hardback, purchased
Rating: 4 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US
Blurb: Brighton, winter 1951. Pantomime season is in full swing on the pier with Max Mephisto starring in Aladdin, but Max’s headlines have been stolen by the disappearance ’of two local children. When they are found dead in the snow, surrounded by sweets, it’s not long before the press nickname them ‘Hansel and Gretel’.
DI Edgar Stephens has plenty of leads to investigate. The girl, Annie, used to write gruesome plays based on the Grimms’ fairy tales. Does the clue lie in Annie’s unfinished – and rather disturbing – last script? Or might it lie with the eccentric theatricals who have assembled for the pantomime?
For Stan (aka the Great Diablo), who’s also appearing in Aladdin, the case raises more personal memories. Back before the Great War, he witnessed the murder of a young girl while he was starring in another show, an event which has eerie parallels to the current case.
Once again Edgar enlists Max’s help in penetrating the shadowy theatrical world that seems to hold the key. But with both distracted by their own personal problems, neither can afford to miss a trick. For Annie and her friend, time is running out…
Review: I reviewed The Zig Zag Girl – the first book in ‘The Magic Men’ series a good while ago and it firmly became one of my absolute favourite books and featured in my top books of 2015 post! Crime, magic, 1940’s Brighton – what more could you want in a book? It took me far too long to get around to reading the sequel, ‘Smoke and Mirror‘s’ but we got there eventually and I wasn’t at all disappointed. DI Edgar Stephens is on a new, gruesome case when he finds two children dead in the snow, surrounded by sweets. The case begins to resemble a sinister version of Hansel and Gretal and Edgar’s friend and magician, Max’s panto season is quickly overlooked as the case grows.
I don’t want to go into too much detail about the plot with this one because I’d probably give something away but I will say fairy-tales hold a huge significance in this book and it is fantastically done with something so innocent that becomes so sinister. As with the first one, I love the setting of 1940’s Brighton and this time, it’s winter and it’s pantomime season and Elly sets the scene beautifully – she has such a talent for that. The time of year in which this book is set also adds to the darkness of the crimes. At the time where everyone is supposed to be happy and spending time with family, Edgar, Max and everyone else involved has this huge, terrible crime hanging over their heads.
It was so nice to be back with Edgar and my favourite magician, Max. I would say you could read this book without having read the first one but the back story behind the characters that appears in the first one would help. I do however, wish Max was in it more. I loved his panto scenes – with him playing Abanazar – and had such a good image in my head of him in all his make up and costume, coming onto the stage in a puff of green smoke. Although I adored the pantomime side of this story and the connection with fairy-tales and whilst I understand the author did need to mix it up and do something different, I enjoyed the first one that little bit more due to the magic and illusion elements to it. Which this book obviously lacked.
50 pages from the end and I still didn’t have a hope in hell of guessing who our killer was. Like literally, not a clue! I didn’t even have any suspicions because obviously the people we’re led to believe to be suspects, never are and the conclusion was one I wouldn’t have seen coming a mile off. Elly has written a fantastic sequel to The Zig Zag Girl and kept the image of these wonderful characters alive. I like that the personal lives of the characters are now progressing but the crimes are still the forefront of the story. An effortlessly brilliant crime novel that keeps you well on your toes and guessing until literally the end.