The Zig Zag Girl
“An absorbing read, the debut of another great series.” —San Jose Mercury News
“A labyrinthine plot, a splendid reveal, and superb evocation of the wafer-thin veneer of glamour at the bottom end of showbusiness . . . Thoroughly enjoyable.” —Guardian
Brighton, 1950. A girl is found cut in three, and Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens is convinced the killer is mimicking a famous magic trick—the Zig Zag Girl. The inventor of the trick, Max Mephisto, served with Edgar in a special ops troop called the Magic Men that used stage illusions to confound the enemy. Max still performs, touring with ventriloquists, sword-swallowers, and dancing girls. When Edgar asks for his help with the case, Max tells him to identify the victim quickly; it takes a special sidekick to do the Zig Zag Girl—words that haunt Max when he learns the dead girl is Ethel, one of his best assistants to date.
Another death, another magic trick, and still no killer. But when Edgar receives a letter warning of another “trick” on the way—the Wolf Trap—he knows the Magic Men are in the killer’s sights.
“Enormously engaging . . . Griffiths’s plot is satisfyingly serpentine.” —Daily Mail
“Readers will finish looking forward to the next trick up [Griffiths’s] sleeve.” —Mystery Scene
Elly Griffiths is the author of the Ruth Galloway and Magic Men mystery series. She is the recipient of the Mary Higgins Clark Award and her work has been praised as “gripping” (Louise Penny), “highly atmospheric” (New York Times Book Review), and “must-reads for fans of crime fiction” (Associated Press).
his family, boring them senseless with stories of his showbusiness youth. But Diablo had no family. ‘Never had time to get a wife,’ he had confided last night over the port. ‘Too late now, of course.’ He had leered hopefully at the barmaid. Was that going to be how Max ended up? Slogging round the strip clubs of Great Yarmouth, trying to do the coin in the bottle trick? God, no. He’d shoot himself first. After he had dropped Edgar and Diablo at Edgar’s digs (trying to suppress a smile at Edgar’s
the way, there was a small crowd in the reception area. ‘Bloody hell,’ he’d said. ‘What’s that smell?’ McGuire had pointed silently to the box. Edgar recognised it immediately—wooden, black, brass clips—the missing triplet that completes the set. ‘Get a camera,’ he said, ‘we should record this. And call Chief Inspector Hodges.’ When he’d opened it, the smell had sent him staggering backwards. He was dimly aware of Sergeant McGuire clicking away in the background and of the chief’s indrawn
this before?’ he asked. ‘Oh yes,’ said Beryl, she had an over-genteel voice, the vowels squeezed very thin. ‘I was in lots of plays at school.’ ‘Do you want to be an actress then?’ ‘More than anything,’ she simpered. ‘Well, this is about acting the part of an ordinary member of the audience. Think you can do that?’ ‘I’ll try.’ Beryl laughed, showing too many teeth. The theatre on the pier had been destroyed by fire during the First World War and completely rebuilt in the 1930s. It was now
He won’t be able to magic his way out of that one, the smug bastard.’ Edgar’s head was still swimming, but he knew that, somehow, he had to keep her talking. ‘Why?’ he said, trying to sound friendly and innocent. ‘I don’t understand.’ She had sat down at the dressing table. He could see her face in mirror, the ruined side turned towards the light. Her hands reached up to her hair. They, too, were horribly scarred, much worse than her face. Old hands, the flower-seller had said. But they were
Bill,’ said Edgar. ‘They just want to avoid me.’ As he said this, he thought of the only woman since Charis who had made his heart beat faster. He thought of the sudden fear when he thought she was in danger, the surging relief (despite everything else that had happened) when he knew she was safe. He looked at Max, who was engaged in lighting one cigarette from another. It would be hard telling Max that he wanted to go out with his daughter, but he’d have to do it some time. They stood up and