cover image The Blood Card

The Blood Card

Elly Griffiths. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25 (384p) ISBN 978-0-544-75030-2

In Mary Higgins Clark Award–winner Griffiths’s uneven third Magic Men mystery (after 2016’s Smoke and Mirrors), magician Max Mephisto and Det. Insp. Edgar Stephens, who collaborated to misdirect German troops during WWII, reunite in 1953 London when their former colonel is murdered. Clues, including a newspaper clipping, an old playbill, and the ace of hearts (the titular “blood card”), point to a theater element and an anarchist cell plotting to disrupt Elizabeth II’s upcoming coronation. With Mephisto preparing to headline a postcoronation TV show, Stephens flies alone to Albany, N.Y., to pursue a lead. Meanwhile, his astute sergeant, Emma Holmes, investigates a link to the recent death of a fortune-teller. The shaky plot relies heavily on coincidence and a gratuitously helpful criminal, but Griffiths excels at depicting the post-WWII transition from variety shows to television. A love triangle involving Holmes, Stephens, and aspiring magician Ruby French, the detective’s fiancée and Mephisto’s daughter, adds a human-interest angle likely to engage both series fans and new readers. Agent: Rebecca Carter, Janklow & Nesbit (U.K.). (Sept.)