The Midnight Hour
November 11, 2021

Book Review

The Midnight Hour

reviewed by Gail Byrd

The sixth in the Brighton Mysteries by prolific author Elly Griffiths, The Midnight Hour takes place in the 1960’s. With a reference to a miniskirt here, or a women’s changing place in the world there, Griffiths creates a book awash in the tone of the unsettled atmosphere of the period.

There are regular series characters like Emma, former police officer and now wife to the Detective Inspector, Edgar and mother to their three children. There are also new characters such as Meg, current police officer and talented investigator working in a system that is still primarily a man’s world.

Within this conflicted atmosphere, Griffiths creates the mystery of show business executive, Bert Billington’s death. His widow, Verity, a former showgirl who is still a remarkable beauty, insists on dealing only with women as the investigation into his death deepens. She has achieved enough status to be allowed her off-beat behavior. At the same time, she is considered a suspect as she voices interest in the idea that women are capable of more than just taking care of their homes and husbands. Did she grow weary of that role with her aging husband and decide to solve the problem by doing away with him? Whose investigation, the police, or Emma’s newly created detective agency, will be the first one to solve Bert’s murder?

Throughout the book Emma juggles her life as a detective and her life as the mother of three children. She often takes them with her on interviews while feeling resentful that her husband has the advantage of not having the same expectations. She misses being a police officer, which Edgar only superficially understands. It’s not that he is unsupportive; but he is comfortable living with the expectations of the earlier era when he could count on coming home to a loving wife and dinner on the table.

There are a wealth of relationships that have been developed over the course of this with characters who regularly appear. For example, Edgar and the now famous Max Mephisto have a history that dates back to World War II when they were part of a band of magic men who came together to track a killer. It is not necessary to have read the earlier novels but it might provide a richness to this book if the reader is familiar with how the characters and their relationships have changed over the years.

The investigation itself has two prongs. First, Emma and her partner Sam, short for Samantha, have been hired by Verity. Then there is the official investigation featuring WPCMeg, with guidance from Edgar and her supervisor who is officially assigned to the investigation. This is partially at Verity’s insistence that she will only deal with women.

Max is currently filming a B grade Dracula movie with one of Verity’s sons. He also has a history with Verity that is uncovered as the investigation digs deep into the past in search of a motive. The personal lives of all the regular characters of this series are given as much emphasis as the investigation itself which will likely appeal to readers who have invested time in the series itself.

The pace of the book is steady for the most part, and picks up toward the end of the book by switching points of view from Emma, to Meg, to Max, to Edgar, and back. Rather than providing all the clues to the reader for them to then solve the mystery itself, the solution is presented to them by Emma who makes some connections and leaps that have gone unnoticed by other investigators. This puts Emma in the position of revealing the murderer and pointing to Meg’s abilities at the same time as it is Meg’s notes that have provided her the information she needs.

This book is probably best enjoyed by people who have invested in the series itself. As in real life, the regular character’s lives continue to grow and change, leaving the reader waiting for the next book in the series to find out what happens to them next.

My thanks to Mariner Books and NetGalley who provided an advance copy of the novel for this review. The opinions stated here are entirely my own.

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