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.
For the last month of the Play On! Challenge, you could pick any play you wanted, I decided on The Mousetrap because it’s the longest running play in the West End and I wanted to read why. Plus, I hoped it wouldn’t be too serious – something that couldn’t be said about last month’s choice of Uncle Vanya. I got exactly what I wanted, which was great.
The play opens with a young couple nervous about receiving their first visitors at their new guesthouse. They have no real idea what they are doing and seem to have missed many of the formalities, like asking for references. Their guests are four strangers, five if you include the mystery man who arrives in the middle of the snow storm that eventually leaves them housebound. At the same time, the radio is reporting on a murder in London. A woman has been strangled.
The setting and story are very much what I expect when I think of Agatha Christie. A country house, a mix of characters – all with something to hide, a murder anyone could have committed and lots of red herrings. It was very “Colonel Mustard in the Library with a lead pipe” and I loved it. Plus there’s the twist in the tale you know is coming and are scratching your head trying to figure out (audience members are asked not to share this and I won’t either, all I’ll say is I didn’t figure out who was guilty).
The Mousetrap is fast paced, with lots of people coming and going, meaning you don’t know if they really going to the kitchen or up to something else, and easy to read. It didn’t take a lot of brainpower to read and I hadn’t expected that. I had expected to be entertained and I was. Really enjoyed it.