Stepping into the pages of The Vanishing Box is like stepping back in time. Perhaps this doesn’t sound that surprising, given the book is set in Brighton in 1953 but I have read plenty of books set in other eras that don’t feel as close to what I imagine life was really like at the time as this. The language, the behaviours, the people and the atmosphere – everything felt just right and I was completely drawn into the world they created.
This world involves a dogged Detective Inspector (Edgar) and his officers (Bob and Emma, a woman determined to make her way in a man’s world and – for the most part – succeeding) as well as Edgar’s best friend, magician Max Mephisto and his daughter (Edgar’s fiancé) Ruby. They all know each other well, having worked together on other cases and the interaction between them helped make the book for me. Given this is their fourth case, it’s probably worth saying here that this could be read as a standalone.
I say their case but it really is the police’s. Max and Ruby are involved because the investigation leads Edgar and his team to the theatre and who better to help them understand how it works than their friends. I liked that they weren’t too involved, weren’t doing the investigating, but their presence gave depth to the story because, although this was about the investigation of the murder of a young woman, it also felt to me like a story of the characters themselves and how they were evolving as people.
I liked them all but Edgar was my favourite, closely followed by Emma (and not just because we share a name!). He is dogged in his pursuit of the killer, fair and honest. He treats Emma with respect, not just as someone who should be there to make the tea, letting her do her job, and doesn’t seem to be frazzled by anything the investigation throws at him. It’s all a very different pace from the crime fiction I normally read, where there is always someone running around or throwing themselves in the path of danger. It was a good change for me, though I did have to get used to it I must admit.
Once I did, though, I was away. There is so much in this book to like and very little to dislike. In fact, the only thing I would say against it is that, for me, it was maybe just a little to long – but that is a personal thing and I imagine most others won’t feel the same way. In my head, this is a TV show in the making and I imagine it would be a hit. I know I would watch!
About the book…
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…
Published: 2nd November, 2017
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Note: I received a copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review. All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.