Author : Elly Griffiths
Title : The Zig Zag Girl
Series : A Stephens & Mephisto Mystery #1
Pages : 352
Publisher : Quercus
Publication date : July 16, 2015
When the body of a girl is found, cut into three, Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens is reminded of a magic trick, the Zig Zag Girl.
The inventor of the trick, Max Mephisto, is an old friend of Edgar’s. They served together in the war as part of a shadowy unit called the Magic Men.
Max is still on the circuit, touring seaside towns in the company of ventriloquists, sword-swallowers and dancing girls. Changing times mean that variety is not what it once was, yet Max is reluctant to leave this world to help Edgar investigate. But when the dead girl turns out to be known to him, Max changes his mind.
Another death, another magic trick: Edgar and Max become convinced that the answer to the murders lies in their army days. When Edgar receives a letter warning of another ‘trick’, the Wolf Trap, he knows that they are all in danger…
I’m sure many of you are familiar with Elly Griffiths’ other series featuring Ruth Galloway (So behind on that one as well. I’ve only read four 🙈) but this one is very different. I’d heard quite a lot about The Vanishing Box, the fourth book in this Stephens and Mephisto Mystery series but as always, I was compelled to start at the beginning.
When the body of a young girl is found, DI Stephens is immediately reminded of a magic trick gone wrong. The girl’s body has been cut up into three pieces, just like the Zig Zag Girl trick. DI Stephens calls in the help of his old friend, Max Mephisto, with whom he served in the war. Max is a good old-fashioned magician who is still touring around the country from venue to venue in a world that’s constantly changing and where variety show entertainers may just be a dying breed.
Max is reluctant to help until it turns out the dead girl was known to him. When another body turns up, Stephens and Mephisto become convinced that the answer is to be found in their army days. But can they stop the killer before they strike again?
Set in 1950’s Brighton, The Zig Zag Girl is an incredibly original combination of police work with the intriguing world of magic and variety shows. Now, I did figure it out but that didn’t bother me at all. The atmosphere, the fantastic setting and the fabulously colourful and sometimes quirky characters had me completely enthralled.
This cleverly plotted and addictive story had me utterly captivated and it’s such a delight to step away from the more modern crime fiction. DI Stephens doesn’t have access to all the fancy gadgets and resources that are around these days. No smartphones, no computers, no databases. All he has is his wit and his gut instinct and nobody bats an eyelid when he pulls in an amateur to help out with his investigation.
I’m glad I have this in-built urge to start a series at the beginning, no matter how many books there are already. Granted, I don’t know how the other books progress but I feel I may not have connected to these characters the way I did if I had jumped right into book four. As it is, I’m left wanting more from both of them as I’m sure there is a lot more background to discover about Stephens and Mephisto.
Elly Griffiths’ decision to tackle something completely different sure paid off. I enjoyed this historical mystery immensely and I can’t wait to find the time to get caught up on the rest of the series.
The Zig Zag Girl is available to buy!
Book 15 from my 20 Books of Summer list.