The Midnight Hour (The Brighton Mysteries)

Written by Elly Griffiths
Review by Simon Rickman

England 1965. Nonagenarian ex-impresario Bert Billington is found poisoned at his retirement home, and in classic who-done-it style, there are enough faces in the frame to open a small portrait gallery. For a start there’s the string of women the serial adulterer bedded and their possibly vengeful kids, plus his own possibly resentful children, not to mention several entertainers from back in his variety-show day, including the famous magician, Max Mephisto. Alternatively, it might’ve been the wardrobe mistress who “knows all the secrets”, or the personal assistant/housekeeper, or indeed his very wronged wife. All seem to have credible grudges, thus motive. As other murders occur, it becomes clear the answers lie in his past.

The CID vie with two privately hired lady sleuths to uncover the truth, and excellent vying it is, not least because sleuth Emma is an ex-cop, married to the local Superintendent. Told mainly from the female perspective, the natural dialogue and clear thought processes enable a smooth yet snappy, at times comedic narrative to progress at pace, enhanced by clever misdirection. Clues lead from the south coast to Liverpool, Whitby, London, Somerset and back. Sustained throughout are valid references to male chauvinism (Meg, the WDC officer, being female, is forbidden from driving police cars!). Contemporary events also feature, such as the Moors Murders, the introduction of no-parking lines, and seat-belt laws. The epilogue presents a neat twist, not unexpected but not as expected. This sixth in series provides much encouragement to explore others in Griffiths’ plentiful oeuvre. Murder-mystery most fine.