EXCERPT: London, 15 May 1953
It was raining when Max came out of the news cinema, but even this could not dent his good spirits. He simply adjusted his trilby and kept his head down as he crossed Piccadilly Circus. Rain in the town was not the same as rain in the provinces: memories of sleet-washed seaside promenades, of deckchairs sodden and flapping in the wind, of Sunday afternoons so grey and endless that they seemed like a foretaste of purgatory. But in London the red buses were still running, people were still darting through the traffic and somewhere – the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane to be exact – his name was spelled out in lights.
ABOUT ‘THE BLOOD CARD’: Elizabeth II’s coronation is looming, but the murder of their wartime commander, Colonel Cartwright, spoils the happy mood for DI Edgar Stephens and magician Max Mephisto. A playbill featuring another deceased comrade is found in Colonel Cartwright’s possession, and a playing card, the ace of hearts: the blood card. The wartime connection and the suggestion of magic are enough for him to put Stephens and Mephisto on the case.
Edgar’s investigation into the death of Brighton fortune-teller Madame Zabini is put on hold. Max is busy rehearsing for a spectacular Coronation Day variety show – and his television debut – so it’s Edgar who is sent to New York, a land of plenty worlds away from still-rationed England. He’s on the trail of a small-town mesmerist who may provide the key, but someone else silences him first. It’s Sergeant Emma Holmes who finds the clue, buried in the files of the Zabini case, that leads them to an anarchist group intent on providing an explosive finale to Coronation Day.
Now it’s up to Edgar, Max and Emma to foil the plot, and find out who it is who’s been dealing the cards . . .
MY THOUGHTS: This is Book 3 in The Brighton series, or Magic Men Mysteries. I have not read them in order, but have loved them just the same. At some point I will go back and read them in order, but for now I am content to just enjoy each one.
The world is changing post World War II, and with the coronation of the new Queen imminent, television is becoming popular to the detriment of the Variety Show. Max and daughter, Ruby are each scheduled to appear in the Coronation Day Variety Show, their television debut. Is it a show that is going to go off with a bang?
Griffiths excels at writing amusing, atmospheric and engaging novels, and she has certainly hit her target with The Blood Card. I have enjoyed catching up on the adventures of magician Max Mephisto and his friend DI Edgar Stephens, who is engaged to be married to Max’s daughter and fellow magician Ruby. Both DS Emma Holmes and Ruby play major roles in this book. DS Holmes has apparently unrequited feelings for Edgar and is resentful of his having Ruby in his life. But I notice that Edgar is beginning to spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about Emma . . . so watch this space!
Characters from Max’s past come out of the woodwork in The Blood Card, and we learn a little more about his childhood. There are cryptic clues, crosswords, cross words, and all manner of goings on. There are Romanies, Tarot Card readers, masters of deception (who even manage to deceive Max!), and much misdirection.
Griffiths portrayal of this era is engaging, the plot flows easily and is interesting, and her characters are delightful. I have only one book left to read in this series now, Smoke and Mirrors, #2. I do hope that this series is not going to stop with the 5 books. I want to travel with this strange assortment of characters well into their old age.
A fun read.
THE AUTHOR: Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway novels take for their inspiration Elly’s husband, who gave up a city job to train as an archaeologist, and her aunt who lives on the Norfolk coast and who filled her niece’s head with the myths and legends of that area. Elly has two children and lives near Brighton.
DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of The Blood Card written by Elly Griffiths, narrated by Luke Thompson and published by Quercus via Overdrive. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
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