Edgar Stephens, an inspector in Brighton, is a rather boring man. He has nothing going on in his life, he gets no respect from his underlings at work, his family is distant, his friends have all moved on with their lives… All he has is his unusual skill at solving crosswords and an exciting past as a special operative with The Magic Men during the war. That is, until a horrible parcel is delivered to the station addressed to him. A woman has been cut into three pieces in the same way that the famous magic trick, the Zig Zag Girl, would have been if the trick failed. This is the first casualty of the magic trick murderer! As the bodies pile up, it seems that Edgar and his intriguing past just might be at the centre of this murder spree. Will Edgar be able to find the killer before it’s too late?
This murder mystery set in the 1950s has a lot of charm. While I would not say that it is nearly as clever as some of Agatha Christie’s brilliant creations, it does hit many similar notes and tones to the famous author’s style. What made this book particularly unique was the centre around magicians and the dying variety show entertainment circuit. I loved the references to the old glamour of live theatre and the skepticism and distrust of the ‘tackiness’ of early television.
As Edgar investigates, we get to meet all his colleagues from the war. These supporting characters really bring the story to life. Max Mephisto, Edgar’s best friend, is a successful magician at the decline of his career. Full of Mediterranean charm and sarcastic humour, he really plays well off of Edgar’s bland persona. Mix in a stodgy military captain, a hilarious 80 year old trickster magician Diablo, and a charming young girl with a secret, Ruby, and you have a fun crew to escort you through a light murder mystery!