3 March 2015

Review #154: The Zig Zag Girl by Elly Griffiths

My rating:
4 of 5 stars

"Illusion is the first of all pleasures."

----Oscar Wilde

Elly Griffiths, an English author, have spin a thrilling tale of magic and illusions set in the post-WWII Britain in her new book, The Zig Zag Girl. This is her first book, after her very successful Dr Ruth Galloway series.


Brighton, 1950.

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.

Unfortunately, I never got a chance to read Griffiths' successful and popular series of Dr. Ruth Galloway. So, I'm completely new to her writing style and hence I won't be the fair judge to comment on her writing style compared to her previous series. Well, to be fair, the opening line of the book was an intriguing and edgy one, that instantly peaked my interest- a girl cut in three! Yes, Edgar Stephens is the Detective who is in charge of "The Zig Zag Girl" case, a body of a women sliced into three halves among which two halves were found in a suitcase in the Brighton railway station and the middle half was personally delivered to the Detective, and the whole set-up reminded him of a magic trick invented by one of his friend. Max Mephisto, the infamous magician and Edgar's best buddy from the war days. They were a part of a secret service team where they used to build illusions to fool and trick the enemy into thinking that the Allies had more resources than was actually the case.
Eventually, as the plot grew more mysterious and magical, the author took us to Edgar and Max's past days when they used to serve in the war, and when the body count increased rapidly, it became clear that their group was the only target in this case.

The writing is pretty nice, but not extraordinary, in fact, the way the author have build the plot is not that compelling, especially the flashbacks- it seems whenever the author took us back into reality there was always some loose ends in the flashbacks, like something missing. The characters undoubtedly very strong and striking. And the mystery element was made intriguing by layering the plot with some major twists and turns. The author crafted Edgar's 50s style of modus operandi is brilliantly but at times the author intentionally filled her plot with some missing blanks to keep us anticipating till the end.

The narrative is free-flowing but at times it became flat as the narration switched from the police investigation to Max's magic tricks. Edgar's character is pretty lonely and complicated and someone, whereas Max turns out to be the lively and most concerning character in the book. The climax or rather say the identity of the killer was very evident from the way the flashbacks were unfolding. So in a nutshell, it's an interesting read filled with lot of magic tricks and if you want to take a ride to the town of Brighton post world war two, then this the perfect book for you. Since from the dressing style to the civilian's life to the glam world to the streets to the cars, the author captured the 50s Brighton lively and vividly.

Verdict: If you are a fan of mind-twisting crimes, then this is the perfect book for you.

Courtesy: Thanks to the author Elly Griffiths and the publicity director of Quercus, for giving me an opportunity to read and review the book.
Author Info:
Elly Griffiths' Ruth Galloway novels take for their inspiration Elly's husband, who gave up a city job to train as an archaeologist, and her aunt who lives on the Norfolk coast and who filled her niece's head with the myths and legends of that area. Elly has two children and lives near Brighton. Though not her first novel, The Crossing Places is her first crime novel.
Visit her here

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