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The Blood Card: Stephens and Mephisto Mystery 3 (Stephens & Mephisto Mystery) Kindle Edition
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The characters do not seem to be developing very much as the series goes along and, again agreeing with another reviewer, even in this third book I sometimes had to go back to the start of a chapter to see if it's Max or Edgar who is the viewpoint character. Considering that they are surely meant to be very different types, this is a shame. Max seems to be wearying of being Max, and dealing with this by sitting at his landlady's kitchen table mending her clock has the effect of making him lose a considerable amount of his charm and charisma; he's just not very edgy any more. I don't warm to Ruby, and the will-they-won't-they-marry line with her and Edgar just doesn't seem to have any sparkle or even much interest. (As things stand at the moment I'd say they won't.) Emma shows guts and spirit, Bob is allowed a moment or two in the limelight, but other than them (and Edgar) the police station staff have disappeared into the background.
I was intrigued by the first three quarters of the plot, but I thought the denouement was poor. By the time we knew the identity of the killer, I had to go back and see who they were and where in the book they had previously appeared. Even then I was thinking, 'Who the hell's that?', and I admit I didn't much care; the explanation was both over-complicated and not very interesting. The plot angle bringing in the characters in America really didn't work, neither the people nor their somewhat flimsy and inadequately-explained motives being credible. I found myself speed-reading what ought to have been the climactic scene, purely because the protagonist was so weakly depicted, and I found the long explanatory chapter, where the lead characters told each other (and the reader) what had happened and why, tedious and an ultimately poor device. All in all, it just didn't seem very likely.
I'm sorry not to write a more fulsome review. Having enjoyed most of the Ruth Galloway books (although they too can be weak on plot, and at times the characters appear to be stuck with nowhere to go), I had great hopes for the Stevens and Mephisto series. It's unreasonable to expect each book in a series to be equally good, and I'm certainly going to purchase the next title when the price comes down (and my three star review in no way refects on the price of the books when they first come out in Kindle because this has absolutely nothing to do with the aurhor and has no place in a review of the book). There is a lot of promise in the Stevens and Mephisto set up, and I look forward to seeing it fulfilled.
The Blood Card is the third of the Stephens and Mephisto series and sees the pairing being forced to embrace the moving times. The invention and growth in popularity of the television has been worrying Max for a while, fearing that it will put an end to his career on the stage. He finally agrees to take part in a show and it is amusing to watch his distrust of the medium compared to the way Edgar’s mother has welcomed it into her home. Edgar, meanwhile, is experiencing something new himself by travelling to New York on an aeroplane. The huge chasm between England and America is revealed as the detective feels like a fish out of water in this strange, huge place.
The mystery is a complicated one as there are numerous characters who you know are going to be interlinked in some way or other. As in the style of a good magician, there is a lot of misdirection so that you are never quite sure which character is good and which is involved with one of the crimes. It was pleasing to read a book where I was still wondering who the criminals were towards the end.
I am still not taken with Edgar’s choice of fiancée, Ruby. Edgar seems to have a lot more invested in the relationship, whereas it feels as though Ruby sees him as a stopgap until fame and fortune comes beckoning. I think it would also suit Max if the couple were to split up!
The Blood Card is another great read and I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series.
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