The Zig Zag Girl: Book summary and reviews of The Zig Zag Girl by Elly Griffiths

The Zig Zag Girl

by Elly Griffiths

The Zig Zag Girl by Elly Griffiths X
The Zig Zag Girl by Elly Griffiths
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  • Published in USA  Sep 2015
    336 pages
    Genre: Mysteries

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Book Summary

In the first installment of a compelling new series by Elly Griffiths, a band of magicians who served together in World War II track a killer who's performing their deadly tricks.

Brighton, 1950. The body of a girl is found cut into three pieces. Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens is convinced the killer is mimicking a famous magic trick - the Zig Zag Girl. The inventor of the trick, Max Mephisto, is an old war friend of Edgar's. They served together in a shadowy unit called the Magic Men, a special ops troop that used stage tricks to confound the enemy. 

Max is on the traveling show circuit, touring seaside towns with ventriloquists, sword-swallowers and dancing girls. He's reluctant to leave this world to help Edgar investigate, but advises him to identify the victim quickly — it takes a special sidekick to do the Zig Zag Girl. Those words come back to haunt Max when the dead girl turns out to be Ethel, one of his best assistants to date. He's soon at Edgar's side, hunting for Ethel's killer. 

Another death, another magic trick: Edgar and Max are sure the answer to the murders lies in their army days. And when Edgar receives a letter warning of another "trick" on the way — the Wolf Trap — he knows they're all in the killer's sights.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Griffiths weaves a compelling tale rich with historical detail and a cast of eccentric characters." - Kirkus

"Griffiths's ability to imbue atmosphere and create fascinating characters continues to make her an author every mystery lover should be reading. Lacking the usual forensics and druids of her previous series, this title may especially appeal to cozy and historical mystery fans." - Library Journal

"As the plot deepens, Griffiths's tone darkens, leading to a series of surprise twists. Readers will look forward to seeing a lot more of Max and company." - Publishers Weekly

"An original plot and appealingly quirky characters round out the appeal of this thoroughly entertaining tale." - Booklist

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Cloggie Downunder

an excellent murder mystery
The Zig Zag Girl is a stand-alone novel by British author, Elly Griffiths. Brighton, England, 1950: the young woman had been sawn in three; the parts, contained in black wooden boxes fastened with brass clips, were discovered in the Left Luggage room of the railway station. Witness descriptions are vague, but several aspects of the case cause DI Edgar Stephens, lead investigator, to travel to Eastbourne to seek out Max Mephisto, magician.

Their association began in Inverness during the war, when they were part of a Secret Service team, the Magic Men, but a tragic event had seen the end of team, and their involvement . The resemblance to one of Max’s tricks, the Zig Zag Girl, is strong, but he cannot cast any light on the matter, even when he learns, to his shock, the identity of the victim. When Max’s engagements bring him to Brighton, another death staged as a magic trick leads him to team up with Edgar in an effort to find the killer.

In keeping with the magic trick theme, Griffiths cleverly divides her novel into four parts, aptly titled: The Build-Up, Misdirection, Raising the Stakes and The Reveal. She uses two narrators, Edgar and Max, to convey different parts of the story as well as to give different perspectives on events. The immediate post-war era ensures the absence of mobile phones, internet, DNA and even many personal vehicles; thus the detective work relies on heavily on legwork, personal visits and intelligent deduction.

Griffiths gives the reader characters that are real and flawed; some are vain and selfish; others distracted by misdirection and convinced by illusion. Her plot is clever and original and has a few twists that even the most astute reader may fail to anticipate. The atmosphere of post-war Britain is skilfully evoked with description, dialogue and the attitudes common at the time. This is an excellent murder mystery from the author of the Ruth Galloway crime novels, and fans will not be disappointed.

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Author Information

Elly Griffiths Author Biography

Elly Griffiths is the author of the Ruth Galloway and Magic Men mystery series. She is the recipient of the Mary Higgins Clark Award and the CWA Dagger in the Library Award, and her work has been praised as "gripping" (Louise Penny), "captivating," (Wall Street Journal) and "must-reads for fans of crime fiction" (Associated Press). She lives in Brighton, England.

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