The Zig Zag Girl by Elly Griffiths

25th January 2021.

DI Edgar Stephens starts his day with the discovery of two parts of a woman’s body, stuffed into cases. The third part is delivered to his office at the police station. It’s Brighton in 1950 and this is no ordinary murder mystery.

Stephens is assisted by an old friend, Max Mephisto, a magician, who regularly saws women into three as part of his act. While the two are very different characters, they share a past in a wartime military unit, dubbed the Magic Men. When other members of the unit are killed, their murders resembling various stage illusions performed by Max, everything points to unfinished business from the past.

The main characters are well drawn, and the relationship between Edgar and Max is the glue that holds the story together as they try to connect all the lines and identify the killer. Factor in the disagreements and animosities within the Magic Men unit and there are plenty of suspects.

Unfortunately they are being killed one by one.

The pace and atmosphere is warm, gentle and easy going, despite the brutality of the murders. The challenges arising as a new post war era gathers momentum are revealed through the decay in variety hall entertainment and the struggles some performers have in adapting to the changes. But the show must go on, even if there’s a killer ready to pounce.

With a couple of surprises and an exciting climax, the story is neatly wrapped up, ready for a sequel.

Description

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 the killer’s sights…

The Zig Zag Girl by Elly Griffiths

Interview on Fictionophile

My thanks to Lynne LeGrow for some interesting and entertaining questions.

‘There’s nothing better than knowing others enjoy the story you wrote. That’s why I write.’

Read the full interview here.

 

The Woman in Blue by Elly Griffiths

July 2017

4/5 stars. I enjoyed the gentle pace of this murder mystery allows the reader time to get to know the main characters and the beautiful and atmospheric Walsingham, while the mystery unfolds.

Description

The murder of women priests in Norfolk’s spooky shrine town of Walsingham draws forensic archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway into a thrilling new adventure.

When Ruth’s friend Cathbad sees a vision of the Virgin Mary, in a white gown and blue cloak, in Walsingham’s graveyard, he takes it in his stride. Walsingham has strong connections to Mary, and Cathbad is a druid after all; visions come with the job. But when the body of a woman in a blue dressing-gown is found dead the next day in a nearby ditch, it is clear that a horrible crime has been committed, and DCI Nelson and his team are called in for what is now a murder investigation.

Ruth, a devout atheist, has managed to avoid Walsingham during her seventeen years in Norfolk. But then an old university friend asks to meet her in the village, and Ruth is amazed to discover that she is now a priest. She has been receiving vitriolic anonymous letters targeting women priests – letters containing references to local archaeology and a striking phrase about a woman ‘clad in blue, weeping for the world’.

Then another woman is murdered – a priest. As Walsingham prepares for its annual Easter re-enactment of the Crucifixion, the race is on to unmask the killer before they strike again…

My thoughts

I was lucky enough to meet Elly Griffiths earlier this year when she came to talk to a local writing group. I was struck by her honesty, humour and wit, which are all apparent in this novel. I enjoyed the gentle pace of this murder mystery allows the reader time to get to know the main characters and the beautiful and atmospheric Walsingham, while the mystery unfolds. In this case, it’s the murder of a woman in a graveyard before a religious Easter gathering. Inspector Nelson, who has problems of his own, is then drawn into another case involving abusive letters sent to a woman priest who knows Dr Ruth Galloway.

Is there a connection? Ruth Galloway believes there might be and makes enquiries of her own.

I haven’t read any of the previous books in the series, but this didn’t detract from my enjoyment of a skilfully crafted story, laced with humour and social comment. Walsingham and its religious history are beautifully described and evoked, adding additional depth to the story.

An enjoyable and entertaining story that reminded me of LJ Ross.

4/5 stars