Christmas is approaching and magician Max Mephisto has secured a headline spot at the Brighton Hippodrome in a double act with his daughter, Ruby. The show has received notoriety status due to one of the acts on the bill – a living tableau, depicting scenes from history, consisting of semi-naked young women. When a body is found, posed like one of the scenes being performed, suspicion falls on the theatre world as DI Edgar Stephens starts his investigation. After a second body turns up, those involved in the act begin to fear for their lives. Can the culprit be apprehended before more bodies are discovered?

The Vanishing Box is the fourth in the Stephens and Mephisto series and this time we see them in 1953. Although he keeps being told that variety is dead, Max is still drawing in the crowds with his magic act, only this time he has to share his billing with his daughter, Ruby. Torn between his love for his daughter and his desire to work alone, Max is not having a particularly happy time so when he gets close to one of the girls in the tableau, things start to look up for him. Max soon finds his plans destroyed, however, and we see him reaching a huge turning point in his life, the consequences of which I hope we get to read about in the next book.

Edgar is also at a crossroads in his life. Engaged to Ruby, but with clear feelings for Emma, one of his fellow officers, will Ruby’s desire to make it on the stage drive a wedge between the couple? With the murder case taking up more and more of his time, the couple are spending less time together than ever, and Edgar and Emma appear to be getting closer.

I love the setting of these books – the theatre world – as it provides each story with a string of fascinating characters who really fit well into the plot. This book, in particular, had some great characters who really brought the era alive. It is easy to imagine the Brighton of the 1950s, a time when variety shows were still popular yet the popularity of the television was beginning to grow.

The Vanishing Box is a great mystery with some gruesome murders and plenty of suspects to keep you guessing until the very end. This could work as the end of the series, but I really hope it isn’t as I am finding the Stephens and Mephisto books brilliant reads and this one is probably the best so far. More please!