The Zig Zag Girl by Elly Griffiths

The Zig Zag Girl’ is the first stand-alone novel by Elly Griffiths after her very successful series featuring archaeologist Ruth Galloway.

The book is set in the 1950s, mostly in Brighton among the itinerant variety theatre community. The heyday of these performers was coming to an end with the advent of television and the seediness of the lifestyle, theatres and characters came across brilliantly in this novel.

A body if found – in parts – at the left luggage office of Brighton station. The body immediately reminds Detective Inspector Edgar Stevens of a magic trick known as the Zig Zag Girl. Even more so when he receives the missing body part.

During WWII Edgar served as part of a team called the Magic Men whose role was to devise ways to fool the enemy that areas were better protected than they actually were (eg. tanks made of wood and fabric etc.) Here he served with and became friends with the famous magician Max Mephisto who invented the Zig Zag Girl trick. Max is still working as a touring magician but he and Edgar team up to solve the crime.

It soon becomes clear (with letters and further deaths) that the murders are directed at the Magic Men. Edgar and Max fear that the old team will be eliminated one by one.


This book completely captured the feel of the 1950s with its plot, characters, locations and pacing. Having loved Agatha Christie as a child, I found the style of the book a bit like a return to my childhood.

Unfortunately I have no knowledge of or interest in magic tricks, so in that regard the book had no appeal for me.

Although I prefer Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway series (I’m slowly working my way through the series) to this one, I think this book was excellently written and I look forward to seeing what Elly Griffiths writes next. Series continues with ‘Smoke and Mirrors‘.


Book published 2014


See a full list of books by Elly Griffiths

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