EXCERPT: ‘Looks as if someone’s sliced her into three,’ said Solomon Carter, the police surgeon, chattily. ‘We’re just missing the middle bit.’
I must not be sick, thought Edgar Stephens. That’s what he wants. Stay calm and professional at all times. You’re the policeman after all.
He looked down at the shape on the mortuary table. You couldn’t really call it a body, he thought, almost dispassionately. It was more like one of those classical statues, head and shoulders only, hacked through just above the breasts. The beauty of the face and the flowing blonde hair only heightened the sense of unreality. He could be looking at a model head in a milliner’s shop. Apart from the clotting blood and decaying flesh, that is. Despite himself he felt his stomach heave.
ABOUT THIS BOOK: 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…
MY THOUGHTS: This is the first in the Stephens and Mephisto Mystery series by the author of the Ruth Galloway series, Elly Griffiths. I have previously read two other of the (currently) five books in the series. I am reading the entire series, in order, this year.
As with all Griffiths writing, the atmosphere is incredibly authentic. Brighton Pier in all its gaudy glory, variety show theatre, the seedy boarding houses and blowsy landladies are all brilliantly portrayed. The reader wanders amongst them, fingers sticky from candy floss, eyes agog at the magician’s tricks. Or that’s how it felt to me….
And the mystery – because that’s what we’re all here for, isn’t it? – is a beauty. I had several, and excuse the pun, stabs in the dark as to the identity of the murderer and never came close. In fact, the more I read, the more confounding the mystery became.
The Zig Zag Girl is an excellent start to a wonderful series and comes highly recommended.
THE AUTHOR: 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.
DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of The Zig Zag Girl by Elly Griffiths, narrated by Daniel Philpott and published by Quercus. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
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