THE MIDNIGHT HOUR by Elly Griffiths

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I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from the publisher in order to write this review.

Meg isn’t sure why the Detective Inspector brought her along to the crime scene. It may be the 1960s, but women police officers still don’t have many responsibilities. But when they arrive, she learns that the victim’s widow, an elderly actress and feminist, has refused to talk to the male police officers. She is also the primary suspect.

But as the case unfolds, Meg learns that there was a host of people who hated the late stage producer, including at least one of his sons. And she isn’t the only woman on the case. The accused actress has hired former police sergeant and newly-established PI Emma Holmes Stephens to clear her name. The police never collaborate with PIs, but as neither believe that the actress killed her husband, they find themselves on the same side as the DI and Emma’s husband, the superintendent of police, continue to suspect the widow. Unfortunately, as evidence begins to mount up to support the actress’s innocence, the finger points toward Emma’s friend and long-time collaborator, the magician Max Mephisto.

In this series continuation of Griffiths’ popular Brighton detectives, a friendly competition turns desperate as bodies begin to pile up. With a number of detectives on the case, sometimes withholding information from one another, the reader always has a more comprehensive picture of the murder than the detectives, giving us a fair chance to solve the mystery first. But misdirection and an abundance of clues and suspects make the solution tantalizing obscure. As with any series where a beloved character becomes a prime suspect, it is difficult if not impossible to take that possibility seriously. But there were enough other suspects to keep me engaged. I’d recommend this one to fans of police procedural mysteries and historical mysteries with feminist detectives.

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