Elly Griffiths, winner of the Mary Higgins Clark Award for her first mystery featuring Dr. Ruth Galloway, launches a new series with The Zig Zag Girl. Out last year in England, the first book is set in Brighton, England, where a small team called the Magic Men may be in danger.
It's 1950, and England is struggling to recover from World War II. Edgar Stephens is now a Detective Inspector responsible for a shocking case. A woman's legs and head have been found in luggage that was left in Brighton station. But, when Edgar realizes the luggage resemble a magician's boxes, he turns to a magician for help, Max Mephisto, who did a trick called the Zig Zag Girl before the war.
The war changed everything, and it sent a small group of men to Inverness, Scotland. Edgar wasn't a magician like Max, the Great Diablo, and Tony Mulholland, but he was recruited because of his skill in solving puzzles. The small team called themselves the Magic Men. Their job was providing illusions to deceive the Germans. Now, when first one death, and then a second one, are linked to magic and the Magic Men, Edgar and Max have to determine if the group is the target, or if one of their small group is a killer.
Griffiths' latest mystery is fascinating, but for unusual reasons. The story of the magicians during the war is intriguing. But, it's the story of England in recovery and change that I found most intriguing. Griffiths' characters clearly represent the various classes, and Edgar constantly worries that he's risen past his class, and feels out of place in all aspects of his life. And, Max Mephisto, who represents a dying breed of magicians who tour and perform in the best venues, is a mysterious, interesting character.
Although the mystery itself is puzzling, I had problems with the solution. I wasn't satisfied with the conclusion. However, it would be a spoiler to discuss that aspect, so my comments about it will be below, under Spoiler.
Read The Zig Zag Girl for the representation of England in the post-war years, and the fascinating characters. And, if you've read the book, read the spoiler, and let me know what you think.
Elly Griffiths' website is http://www.ellygriffiths.co.uk
The Zig Zag Girl by Elly Griffiths. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2015. ISBN 9780544527942 (hardcover), 328p.
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book
SPOILER - What is it with the recent mysteries in which the sleuth, professional or amateur, don't solve the crime, and don't even have an idea who the killer is until trapped by the killer? Although The Zig Zag Girl was interesting, I had problems with the fact that Max and Edgar never figured out who the killer was. It was a minor character who saw the killer, and realized it, but Max and Edgar were victims themselves. This was the second mystery I just read when the sleuths just stumbled into the solution. That's not satisfying.