Author: Elly Griffiths
Blurb: 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…
This book instantly appealed to me because I’m currently with a magician, so I’m literally around magic 24/7 and I actually found a lot of familiar terms and ideas in this book because of him. I’m also a massive crime fan, but haven’t read a crime book that gripped me in a long time. Put those two subject matters together and you essentially have my ideal book and what a bloody book it was! The Zig Zag Girl is a popular magic illusion – but when Detective Edgar Stephens gets put on a case where the victim has been cut into 3 in a very similar way to that particular illusion, he starts noticing links between the crimes and his life in the army. Along with his Magician friend, Max, they get together with the rest of “The Magic Men” from their war days to help investigate the murders.
The Zig Zag Girl hooked me from page 1. I know a lot of people just “say” that – heck, I’ve said that before myself and not really meant it – but this truly was one of those books that I knew I would love from page one. The narrative was so fluent and easy to read and follow – there were no unnecessary chunks of dialogue or dragging pages of texts – I just seemed to fly effortlessly through this story. She captures the essence of the British seaside towns in which the story is set perfectly and the showbiz element which features heavily in the book is captured fantastically – she transports you right into the audience of Max’s shows.
This book is written in quite a pace from beginning to end and doesn’t leave you wondering what’s happening because something is always happening. I couldn’t for a second guess who the culprit of these crimes were and the twists and turns were executed brilliantly. I was constantly rooting for Edgar and Max to find this murderer as they were both such likeable main characters with interesting stories and connections. I’ve never read any of Elly’s work before but if this book is anything to go by, I’ll definitely be looking out for some more. Effortlessly brilliant.
1) Hi Elly! I’m thrilled to have you on my blog today – thank you for taking the time to answer some questions about The Zig Zag Girl. First of all, can you sum up what it’s about in your own words?
It’s always hard to do this for your own book! Well, it’s about a group of men who, in the war, were part of an espionage group called The Magic Men employed to use magic and stagecraft against the enemy. Five years after the war one of the group, Edgar Stephens, is a policeman in Brighton. When he is sent the remains of a woman cut into three he remembers a conjuring trick called The Zig Zag Girl and sets out to find the man who invented the trick, his old comrade Max Mephisto. Soon Edgar and Max are on the trail of a killer who is using magic in new and gruesome ways.
2) Where did you get the inspiration for this book?
My granddad was a music hall comedian and I wanted to write about that world. I was also fascinated by a magician called Jasper Maskelyne who, in the war, really was employed to use stage magic against the Nazis.
3) Are you or have you ever been a fan of magic – illusions or close up magic? If so, who do you enjoy watching?
I love magic and particularly admire Derren Brown and Dynamo. Derren Brown’s book Confessions of a Conjuror is fantastic, beautifully written and a wonderful insight into the mind of a magician.
4) Did you consult with any magicians or magic consultants whilst writing this book?
No. I wouldn’t want them to think I was trying to steal their secrets! I did a lot of reading and then tried to work it out for myself. There are some brilliant magic tricks on YouTube too.
5) If The Zig Zag Girl was made into a film – who would play your main characters?
I see Max as looking like David Gandy. Well, I can dream can’t I?
6) You briefly mentioned on Twitter that you were writing the sequel – can you tell us anything about that yet?
It’s called Smoke and Mirrors and is set during panto season. Snow is falling in Brighton, Max is playing Abanazar in Aladdin and two children go missing…
7) If you could co-write a book with any other author (dead or alive) who would it be and why?
I’ve sometimes talked with Jim Kelly, who also writes about King’s Lynn in Norfolk, about writing a short story where his detective Valentine meets Nelson.
8) What exciting plans do you have for 2015? Bookish and otherwise?
There’s a new Ruth book (number 7!) out in April. It’s called The Ghost Fields. And I’m hoping to visit the US for Bouchercon in October.
9) What was the best book you read last year? (Or one of the best if you can’t pick just one!)
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt