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The Zig-Zag Girl by Elly Griffiths
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The Zig-Zag Girl (2014)

by Elly Griffiths

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Stephens and Mephisto (1)

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Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
I saw that book two is coming out now this fall and thought perhaps it was time to read the first book since I have had the ARC just around a year waiting for me to read. Elly Griffiths is the author behind the Ruth Galloway series, a series I quite enjoy reading so I was curious to see how this new series would be.

The new series takes place in the 1950s Brighton and Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens must solve a case of a murdered woman. The body has been cut in three bits and this reminds him of the magic trick, the Zig Zag Girl. He knows the investor of the trick, Max Mephisto, he is an old friend and they served together in the war in a shadow unit called Magic Men. But who would kill a girl and why? And, then another one is killed and now they must really find the killer before more people are killed. And, it seems that the people that are killed is connected to the Magic Men...

It was interesting to read something other than Elly Griffiths usual series and I enjoyed a step back in time to the 50s just after the war with people that are trying to move on, but it has only been 5 years since it ended and the memories of it still lingers over the country. For Edgar Stephens brings this case back memories of the war and the shadow unit he was in and the women he loved and lost. He hasn't really gotten over her and the way she died. And, now with the murder is he reunited with Max Mephisto, magician the man who invented the Zig Zag Girl. I just love magicians and I enjoyed the combination of a police and magician working together.

I found the case interesting because of the group of magicians, not all of them were magicians, of course, Edgar wasn't one. But they were gathered together to create illusions to stupefy the enemy. And, now it seems that there is a murdered among them.

But it was also not hard to figure things out, the story was good, but I found it too easy to figure things out. It lacked any real moments of surprises. I enjoyed reading it, it was a fine book and I want to read the next book. I just hope for a more intriguing plot.

3.5 stars

Thanks to Quercus Books and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! ( )
  MaraBlaise | Dec 14, 2017 |
When someone leaves two crates at the Brighton train station and later another addressed to him at the police station containing parts of a showgirl still in costume, police officer Edgar Stephens is reminded of an illusionist's act known as the zig zag girl in which an assistant appears to be divided into thirds only to be later rejoined without harm. Inspector Stephens would be intimately knowledgeable of the acts since he was one of several pre-WW2 magicians, known as the Magic Men, employed by the military during the war to use their skill in creating illusions for British intelligence. However, when one of the Magic Men and a housewife associated with one the Magic Men are later found murdered, Edgar realizes that someone has targeted the Magic Men. With the assistance of another of the Magic Men, Max Mephisto, they contact the others to warn them to be careful and hope to discover who has targeted the squadron.

The novel is told from the perspective of either Edgar or Max. As the two visit the remainder of the Magic Men, I tried to discern the secret that connected the Magic Men that might reveal who the murderer was.I enjoyed this Christie-like mystery. The characters were well-developed but the plot was weak without much depth. However, if there is a sequel with the Magic Men, I will probably pick it up. ( )
  John_Warner | Dec 3, 2017 |
When the body of a girl, cut into three, is found in Brighton by Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens, his first thought is the popular magic trick called the Zig Zag Girl. His next thought is of an old friend he served with in the war, Max Mephisto, who was the inventor of the famous trick. When the two combine forces to solve the murder, the clues seem to point to their past. Set in 1950's Brighton, this a new series by the beloved author of the Ruth Galloway mysteries (which I highly recommend). Although I typically do not enjoy historical fiction, or novels with male protagonists, I still greatly enjoyed this novel and am really looking forward to the rest in the series!

Sarah M. / Marathon County Public Library
Find this book in our library catalog.

( )
  mcpl.wausau | Sep 25, 2017 |
Griffiths' new series features Edgar Stephens and Max Mephisto. Set in 1950 Brighton when variety shows on the pier were still popular, a group who were together in special ops during the war are now three magicians and a policeman, still friends. When a woman's body in three pieces turns up, suggesting the famous zig-zag girl trick gone wrong, the group are warned that they are the target. This is an excellent mystery that portrays the theatre business of the 1950s with authenticity: the seedy grandeur of the theatres, the performers who have a different landlady each week, the acts themselves that are now long gone. Entertaining enough to be classed as a cozy yet the nature of the crime gave it more gravity, the plot was complex, the characters well-drawn, and the conclusion satisfyingly exciting. Griffiths did her research well and deserves the place on my favourite mystery writers list. ( )
1 vote VivienneR | Aug 21, 2017 |
Sadly nothing in this book worked for me. The characters were flat and unbelievable. The writing was not interesting and it was all just tedious. ( )
  kimkimkim | Aug 21, 2017 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Griffiths, Ellyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Blow, PaulCover artist and designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Philpott, DanielReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
'I' faith he looks much like a conjuror.'

-- Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus
Dedication
For my mother, Sheila de Rosa,
and in memory of my grandfather,
Frederick Goodwin
(stage name: Dennis Lawes).
First words
'Looks as if someone's sliced her into three,' said Solomon Carter, the police surgeon, chattily.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
In the first installment of a compelling new series by Elly Griffiths featuring Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens and the magnificent Max Mephisto, 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. [retrieved 8/14/2017 from Amazon.com]

After serving in the First World War, my grandfather, Frederick Goodwin, took the stage name Dennis Lawes and reinvented himself as a music hall comedian. I wish I'd asked him more about his life on the variety circuit, but such snippets as he did let fall I have included in the book. I'm also very grateful to my mother, Sheila de Rosa, for her memories of growing up in this world, living in different theatrical digs every week and having a succession of glamorous chorus girl 'aunties'.

Max Mephisto and the Magic Men are entirely imaginary. There was, however, a real group of camouflage experts working in Egypt in the Second World War called the Magic Gang. Among other illusions, they were credited with making the Suez Canal disappear. The Magic Gang was led by the famous magician Jasper Maskelyne [...] [From the Acknowledgements.]
Haiku summary
espionage afoot
sleight of hand murderer
all smoke and mirrors
(hardboiled)

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"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" --… (more)

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