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Smoke and Mirrors
Cover of Smoke and Mirrors
Smoke and Mirrors
Stephens and Mephisto Mystery Series, Book 2

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?

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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  • Publisher's Weekly

    May 30, 2016
    Set in Brighton, England, in 1951, Griffith’s captivating sequel to 2015’s Zig Zag Girl finds Det. Insp. Edgar Stephens embroiled in a grim holiday hunt for the murderer of two children. Like an unnerving scene from a fairy tale, a trail of candy in the snow leads to the bodies of Annie Francis, a 13-year-old with a talent for writing, and Mark Webster, her constant companion of similar age. As Stephens searches for a killer, tension grows in the town. Is the murderer the candy-store owner and the last to see them alive, or the quirky bachelor who helped the victims stage plays? Matters become more complicated when magician Max Mephisto, Stephen’s friend, appears with a disturbingly similar tale of an earlier murder. Is an actor in the Christmas pantomime connected to the long-ago murder of a young performer? Are the present-day murders a reenactment? Stephens and his team must sort through misdirection and vanishing acts before another child dies in this suspenseful outing. Agent: Rebecca Carter, Janklow & Nesbit.

  • Kirkus

    July 15, 2016
    A magician's misdirections may provide the clue that solves three murders in 1950s Brighton.DI Edgar Stephens and his team are desperately seeking two children who have gone missing. Twelve-year-old Mark Webster and his 13-year-old friend Annie Francis came home from school, went out to play, and vanished. When their snow-covered bodies are found, Stephens is desperate to find the killer. Along with sergeants Bob Willis and Emma Holmes, he canvasses the area, questioning everyone, including the owner of the sweets shop near the disappearance and the man the children call Uncle Brian, who has a theater set up in his garage. The investigation leaves Stephens scant time for his old friend Max Mephisto, a famous magician reduced to playing in a pantomime show on Brighton Pier, who wants to help. Not only did they serve together in World War II in a special group recruited by MI5 to fool the Germans, but Max helped Stephens solve a tough case (The Zig Zag Girl, 2015) when he first arrived to serve with the Brighton force. Annie, despite her lower-class background, was extremely bright and wrote plays that cast her friends and relatives. Stunning teacher Daphne Young encouraged her pupil's talent in adapting gruesome versions of fairy tales. But before she can reveal something she realizes may help the police, she's found strangled. Although the team follows every clue, including a possible tie to a 1912 theatrical murder, the solution remains tantalizingly out of reach. A dazzlingly tricky mystery, oddball characters, and an authentic feel for life in post-World War II England.

    COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    May 1, 2016
    British author Griffiths, who made her mark with the Ruth Galloway series--it's sold over 300,000 copies across formats, and "The Ghost Fields" was a May 2015 LibraryReads Top 10 pick--launched her "Magic Men" series last year with "The Zig Zag Girl". Now the Magic Men are back, with Max Mephisto set to star in the local Christmastime production of Aladdin even as DI Edgar Stephens investigates the murder of two children in a scenario creepily reminiscent of "Hansel and Gretel." Look for promotion at ALA.

    Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • School Library Journal

    December 1, 2016

    Tweens Annie and Mark are missing, and DI Edgar Stephens is charged with leading the search in Brighton, England, in the winter of 1951. It is just before Christmas, and that means pantomime play season in England. The "panto" plays are intertwined with the grim fairy tales that young Annie writes and stages in a lonely neighbor's garage. The girl has been mentored by her primary school teacher, and she enlists the help of her many brothers and sisters and her best friend Mark, who shares a working-class upbringing. It's lucky for DI Stephens that it is play season, because that means his close friend from the war, magician Max Mephisto, is in town performing. Though very different, Max and Edgar forged a tight friendship during World War II, when they were assigned as "Magic Men" in a covert operation. There are so many trails to follow and so many possible suspects, and as time runs out for the missing children, another victim emerges. While the British colloquialisms about the "panto" will be new to American readers, the focus on child victims; the dark, fairy-tale aspects; and the engaging characters will draw students into this second in the series. Hand this one to fans of Mary Higgins Clark. VERDICT An excellent addition to larger mystery collections.-Jake Pettit, Enka Schools, Istanbul, Turkey

    Copyright 2016 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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Stephens and Mephisto Mystery Series, Book 2
Elly Griffiths
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