Review: Elly Griffiths – The Zig Zag Girl

The Zig Zag GirlIt’s always a risk for a writer to start a new series. Elly Griffths is the author of the successful books set in East Anglia featuring forensic anthropologist, Ruth Galloway. Fans of the series, including me, eagerly await each new instalment but I’m sure it can be wearying for an author to keep writing around the same characters. The Zig Zag Girl is Griffiths’ first book in a new series set in 1950s Brighton and it will be interesting to see what fans make of the novel.

The head and legs of a woman are found at a train station in two cases. Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens receives the body’s torso in a package addressed to him using his former military rank, ‘captain’. The body is revealed to be that of a former assistant of magician Max Mephisto. Mephisto once served in the army with Edgar Stephens and they soon discover that members of their former group, known as The Magic Men, are being hunted down and killed using gruesome re-enactments of magic tricks.

The Zig Zag Girl is an interesting read mainly for its depictions of post-war Brighton and the troubles of people who are adjusting to civilian life. We’re on Foyles War territory and it makes for an enjoyable setting. The story is slightly bizarre which I found initially difficult to engage with. Griffiths is at her best when dealing with the minutiae of domestic life and the sheer mundanity of aspects of the entertainment profession. She is, however, an excellent writer and, by the end, I was racing to the finish.

Whether the characters stand up to a long series, I’m not sure but as a one-off, I found The Zig Zag Girl to be an very good read.

Thanks to Quercus for my review copy.

28 thoughts on “Review: Elly Griffiths – The Zig Zag Girl

  1. Margot Kinberg

    Sarah – So glad you enjoyed this. I agree with you about Griffiths’ skill as a writer. And I give her loads of credit for creating a very different sort of story to the Ruth Galloway series. It’ll be interesting to see if this is a one-off or the first of a series.


  2. I’m looking forward to reading this…embarrassingly, I haven’t read any Elly Griffiths yet, despite having four of them – I ended up buying the first one last, so shall finally get to them. But I fancy The Zig Zag Girl first!


  3. This looks to be right up my street — “killed using gruesome re-enactments of magic tricks” gets the lips of this old Ellery Queen/John Dickson Carr fan smacking! Many thanks for the headsup.

    Will you be publishing your schedule of events in NYC?


    1. Hi, NYC is a personal trip this time as my book isn’t out until Sept. I’ll be back over for Bouchercon in the Fall. This trip, I’m going on a writing retreat for 7 days but will be in the city before that from Tues-thurs 17-19 Feb. Are you in NY then?


      1. Ah! As you’ve realized, I’d thought it was a promotional trip.

        in the city before that from Tues-Thurs 17-19 Feb. Are you in NY then?

        Possibly so, depending on how things go over the next few days. Lemme get back to you on this.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Sounds like a great read, plus I had never heard of Elly Griffths and her forensic anthropologist series. Now I can’t wait to check them both! Thank you for the recommendations, now my TBR pile looks even more dangerous 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Kathy D.

    I’m a fan of Ruth Galloway and her circle of friends. I love a woman protagonist who is not perfect, glamorous, thin and physically fit, but is a regular person, a single mother at that.
    I’m not sure I’d like this one but if it hits my library, I’ll try it.


  6. I think I’m in the minority here in that while I enjoyed it quite a bit, the use of magic and magicians in the story wasn’t really reflected in the plotting. The revelation at the end of the killer’s identity seemed like an attempt at something clever that came across as a bit obvious and fell rather flat for me after a very effective build up.

    But it has impressed me enough to try the Ruth Galloway series.


  7. tracybham

    I have only read one Elly Griffiths book but have another to read in that series. I will be interested in trying this one someday, since I usually love any book set in the post WWII period.


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