When the body of a young woman is found, cut into three pieces, Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens is instantly reminded of a magic trick known as the Zig Zag Girl. He seeks out the inventor of the trick, Max Mephisto, a magician who is still performing his act up and down the country, and someone who Stephens knew from the war when they were members of a ‘secret’ unit known as The Magic Men. Initially, Max is reluctant to help with the investigation until it becomes apparent that he knew the victim. When another victim is found, it becomes apparent that The Magic Men are being targeted. Will any of them be able to escape with their lives?
I am a huge fan of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths and so I felt that it was high time that I gave her other series a read. The Zig Zag Girl is the first of the Stephens and Mephisto series, set in 1950 in Brighton, a time when the memories of World War Two were still fresh in the minds of all those involved. It is no surprise, then, that wartime events play a prominent role in the plot.
The story is a macabre one, with victims being dispatched in a variety of ways – all linked to magic tricks that have been performed onstage. The magic provides a link to the role of Stephens and Mephisto during the war when they were tasked to develop ways of creating illusions as a way of tricking the enemy. We also meet several others who formed part of this unit and it was fun trying to figure out who, if any of them, was the killer and which of them would be killed.
One of the main strengths in The Zig Zag Girl is the characterization of the main protagonists. They are a proper mismatched pair with the staid Stephens being a massive contrast to the more flamboyant Mephisto. Despite this, they work really well as a double act and complement each other perfectly. I also loved reading scenes involving Stephens and his mother and found their relationship real yet humorous.
This is definitely a series I will be continuing with and I already have the next book lined up!