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Publisher's Summary

Magic, murder, and a mystery rooted in a murky wartime past. Meet DI Stephens and Max Mephisto.

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....

©2014 Elly Griffiths (P)2014 Quercus Editions Ltd

What listeners say about The Zig Zag Girl

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Thrilling but sometimes transparent

Story was gripping and the characters were unusual and interesting. I was really engrossed in the plot and excited to see how it all unfolded. Although the final reveal featured many surprises, I thought it was pretty obvious who the murderer was. Narrator was excellent.

3 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Kind of quaint

An old fashioned type of mystery. Style of writing matches the post war era in which it was set. Narration does likewise.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Magic

Last week I finished binge listening to (apart from the final book, which I read in book form) Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway series. And, knowing I’ll have to wait at least another year for the next Ruth book, the obvious move was for me to try out her other popular series, the Stephens and Mephisto Mystery series. The Zig Zag Girl starts out a little gruesome. Two pieces of a woman’s body are found and then the third piece is delivered to DI Edgar Stephens at the Brighton Police Station. The way the body is presented reminds Edgar of a magic trick and he elicits the help of his friend, the famous magician Max Mephisto. It’s 1950 and during the war, Edgar and Max had been part of a unit called the Magic Men. The Magic Men was basically a group of spies who used their stage skills to set up illusions which the British Army hoped would fool the Nazis into believing there were tanks and boats and army personnel in places there wasn’t. I love this time period. It was such an interesting period of history where the war really was affecting everyone across the globe and so many men and women were obviously suffering PTSD. There’s so much potential for a writer and I thought Griffiths did a great job of utilising the PTSD of the characters without making it inappropriate in today's world. The method the murderer used was original and I really enjoyed that aspect of the book, despite my squeamishness about it at times. I did think the identity of the killer was pretty obvious early on but I couldn’t even be disappointed by this as Griffiths threw in a couple of other twists that I didn't see coming. In fact, I think the reader was meant to guess the killer and these other couple of reveals were the actual gasp-out-loud moments. I always read the Ruth books for the characters more than the mystery plot, however. Happily, I fell instantly in love with Edgar. He was the perfect rumpled policeman, with quiet ways but obviously intelligent and solid and loyal to his friends and country. His almost naive and unassuming personality was a perfect contrast for the more world-weary and confident to the point of arrogant, Max. As in the Ruth series, Griffiths introduces quite a few supporting characters. The other magic men, obviously, were used including the handsome Bill and his wife, Jean, the brash and annoying Tony, their commanding officer, Major Gormley, and the ageing and usually drunk Great Diablo (I’ve already cast Sir Ian McKellen as this character in my mind!). I thought I might be disappointed by the lack of romance in this book. I love the romantic aspect of the Ruth books, after all. I thought The Zig Zag Girl was pretty much perfect with just the tiniest hint of romance Griffiths gave us though. Accustomed as I am to Ruth’s saltmarsh, Griffith’s place setting was surprisingly just as impressive as Norfolk--this time, Brighton and surrounds. I also enjoyed the descriptive passages for the world of live variety shows. The acts mentioned throughout (including magic and comedy and dancing and acrobats) were colourful and fun but also sad, knowing that most of the performers would have needed to diversify significantly with the introduction of tv. As usual, there’s something about Griffiths’ writing that draws me in to her books. I’m already invested in the fate of these characters. Adding a 5 out of 5 rating to The Zig Zag Girl and immediately am off to buy book two.

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  • EmmaZ
  • 05-01-2015

Not Ruth Galloway

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

For me it was not, since I found the story contrived and unappealing. Maybe I am unfair, since I really enjoy her Ruth Galloway series and expected to be as absorbed and attached to the characters and was not at all.

What do you think your next listen will be?

I will listen to the last installment of the Joe Sandilands series.

Which scene was your favorite?

maybe the end…because I was glad to be done...

Do you think The Zig Zag Girl needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

For me it does not, even though not liking one book does not mean the next one cannot be much more gripping.

Any additional comments?

I am eagerly waiting for the next Ruth Galloway book, one of the best mystery series around, for me.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Sal
  • 20-11-2014

Uninvolving mystery

I was looking forward to trying something new by Elly Griffiths after enjoying her Ruth Galloway stories. Unfortunately this story failed to engage me on any level. The characters were one dimensional, the back story unbelievable and the plot twists could be seen a mile off. The action switched between the two lead characters, Max and Edgar, but the combination of stilted dialogue and poor narration often meant I was struggling to remember which character's viewpoint it was. The narrator didn't seem to have the vocal range necessary to cope with such a wide range of characters.
All in all a very disappointing story and I hope Elly Griffiths won't feel the need to return to the lives of the Magic Men.

17 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Mrs Maureen Cate
  • 26-02-2015

Enjoyable...

Yes, enjoyable but I kept feeling that there was another book I should have read first. Possibly one called 'The Magic Men'! This feeling wasn't dispelled until towards the end, when the previous lives info the main protagonists became clearer. None the less - a good listen.

11 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Rita
  • 22-04-2015

Very different from Ruth Galloway

Brighton just after the war, seedy and slightly "foreign" . A body in three pieces, a policeman who was part of a team of magicians; the magic men who during the war dreamed illusions to fool the enemy. Then more bodies. The writing is sedate, the characters polite, only the magicians are exotic. The mystery unfolds slowly but I could not stop listening. Recommended, but don't expect anything similar to her other Norfolk stories

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Jude
  • 24-01-2015

Couldn't finish this one

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

No, it felt dated and I didn't enjoy the narration.

If you’ve listened to books by Elly Griffiths before, how does this one compare?

I have loved listening to ALL the series of archeology books featuring Ruth and Nelson. This seems to lack drive, and just seems to stall and is a bit dull by comparison.

Did the narration match the pace of the story?

I found it slow, and just couldn't get into it at all. I tried 3 times, perhaps it was after the previous series that it did not come up to scratch.

Could you see The Zig Zag Girl being made into a movie or a TV series? Who would the stars be?

Didn't finish it

8 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Alison
  • 22-10-2014

The Zig Zag Girl

What did you like most about The Zig Zag Girl?

It was nice to have a book set in the world of magic, however indirectly. Not something you read about very often. The time period is interesting too, with the world a little bit dark and a little bit in flux.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

The narrator unfortunately was not good. Very much on one tone all the way through, and no real characterisation, making it quite difficult to differentiate between the characters. He is a big negative, and I will make a point of avoiding him in the future, I'm afraid.

Any additional comments?

I thoroughly enjoy the Ruth Galloway books so I did approach this with a certain amount of trepidation, but narration aside, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is imbued with the warm humour that characterises Ms Griffiths' other books, and is certainly well worth a go. But do be prepared for that narrator which made listening to it a good deal more of a task than was necessary.

13 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Roderic
  • 11-11-2014

Good enough but not exceptional

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

Yes. It was a bit predictable and some of the characters a bit stock, but my expectations were not high.

If you’ve listened to books by Elly Griffiths before, how does this one compare?

I have listened to the whole Ruth Galloway series and was getting very involved with the characters, but I do not think the main character in The Zig-Zag Girl could support a sequel. Let Elly Griffiths prove me wrong!

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • CraigP
  • 24-07-2015

Disappointing

If this book wasn’t for you, who do you think might enjoy it more?

So poor in plot structure and reading; I cant think of anyone who would enjoy this after earlier Elly Grifith's books.

Has The Zig Zag Girl put you off other books in this genre?

Yes

Would you be willing to try another one of Daniel Philpott’s performances?

Never

You didn’t love this book--but did it have any redeeming qualities?

Sadly none

Any additional comments?

Doubly disappointing

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Book Monitor
  • 09-10-2020

A bit bland and predictable.

I was curious about this as I have rather enjoyed the Ruth Galloway series, but this is not as good. The main characters in this are Edgar and Max, a policeman and a magician. They are reunited several years after they were part of a secret war initiative called the magic men, that we hear more about as the story unfolds, a lot more, and over and over. It starts well with a dismembered body discovered in the left luggage of Brighton Station but somehow it develops into nothing more than an averagely good read, even though there are further murders. For me there are some rather heavy handed repetitions and it doesn't take a genius to work out where this is going. Edgar is a bit weak and Max, a bit too one dimensional and both too clichéd to be entirely credible and neither seem to be as intelligent as they are supposed to be. Having said that this isn't a bad book: I was interested enough to want to get to the end, and there were some interesting snippets of historical and show biz life. For me the narrator was fairly good, nothing special but better than some. I felt I was listening to a story being read, not performed but I don't mind. I have the next in series already as I bought it in a sale so I will listen to it. Overall 3.5 stars: 3 for the story, and 4 for the narration.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Linda
  • 08-04-2015

JP Priestly meets Jonathan Creek

Come on Elly. The concept/ of magicians/just after war is wonderful. I absolutely adored the first half of this tale (as will all lovers of Empires Lost and Good Companions/JP Priestly. But sadly the last half of this tale lost its way,
This could indeed be the start of a great series - but you need to give it a lot more TLC Elly Griffiths before it becomes a good one.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Grace
  • 30-10-2014

Extremely predictable

If this book wasn’t for you, who do you think might enjoy it more?

Someone with little imagination and no common sense, the plot was easy to predict from the first chapter.

What will your next listen be?

Something by Pratchett, to cleanse my audio pallet.

What does Daniel Philpott bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

His narration was strong, the only positive thing about this book.

You didn’t love this book--but did it have any redeeming qualities?

Good narrator.

5 people found this helpful

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