1953, and the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II is imminent. Rather than look forward to this, however, DI Edgar Stephens and magician Max Mephisto find themselves investigating the murder of their old commanding officer. Edgar and Max were part of a secret military unit called the Magic Men, tasked with producing deceptions to mislead the enemy. So when their CO’s body is found with a playbill featuring one of their deceased colleagues and an ace of hearts – the blood card – it seems that their past has come back to haunt them.
Is the murder linked to the death of a fortune teller in Edgar’s home-turf of Brighton? Before he knows it, he’s off to Albany NY to investigate another death, while Max prepares for his biggest performance yet – on live television directly after the coronation. But as the threads of a plot begin to weave together, it may all end in disaster for everyone…
BLURB ALERT! BLURB ALERT!
Don’t read it as it gives far too much away. For a long time in the book, the reader isn’t supposed to be sure about what exactly is going on, where it’s going to happen, who’s behind it etc. I must admit, that’s not my preferred plot structure – I like a little more focus in my mysteries to be honest. When the reader isn’t quite sure what the investigators are investigating, it can be a little difficult to focus as a reader. Well, it is for me.
Fans of the first two books should enjoy this one. We get more developments in the lives of Edgar and Max, and there’s some good focus for Edgar’s assistant Emma, although that story doesn’t go exactly as you might expect. The historical aspect is well done, set around an event that I don’t think has been used before in crime fiction, and post-war England is brought to life effectively. The world of the theatre folk as they cope with the arrival of television is a nice theme.
The villain of the piece is fairly clued, although it’s unlikely that anyone but the most alert reader will spot it. It’s a satisfying read, although at the end of the day the villain’s plan seems pretty slight compared to the pile of dead bodies that it necessitates.
Overall, a good read, although as I said, I’d have preferred the plot to have cohered a little earlier than it did. Recommended.