Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Zig Zag Girl by Elly Griffiths

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

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.


Jeffrey Meyerson said...

No, that's not satisfying. I agree with you. The period and setting does interest me, however. I have heard good things about her earlier series and, indeed, have the first book (THE CROSSING PLACES) sitting on the shelf waiting to catch my attention.

Jeff M.

Kay said...

I haven't read this one yet and am not reading your spoiler (yet). I did see that the second book in this series is coming. Hoping that Elly has another series that I will love. Although, I can't imagine anyone toping Ruth Galloway for me. :-)

Warren Bull said...

Thanks for identifying the spoiler. I wish whoever writes cover blurbs for the publisher would do that. The books sounds fascinating.

Lesa said...

Jeff, Jeff. You weren't supposed to read the spoiler if you planned on reading the book. Like you, I was interested in the setting and period. I've heard good things about the earlier series, too, and I'll have to try it.

Lesa said...

I'm glad you didn't read the spoiler, Kay. Let me know what you think when you finish it.

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Warren. I don't often put spoilers in my reviews, but I just needed to say something about this one. I'm with you. I try not to read reviews if I know I'm going to read it because there are so often spoilers in reviews. And, sometimes the cover of the book is the worst.

TFJ said...

I loved her Ruth Galloway series, but I don't think I'll be giving this one a try. Thanks for the review, Lesa.


Lesa said...

You're welcome, Tricia. Well, I'll read the second and see what happens. I like the premise.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

Don't worry. I'm at a point where if and when I get around to the book I won't remember the spoiler. In fact, I forgot it already!



Lesa said...

Well, that's good, Jeff. I hate to spoil a book for anyone.