The Zig Zag Girl
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“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).
too nice to suspects was one. Don’t turn your back on them was another. The Incident Room was empty, so Edgar was able to find the file marked, uncompromisingly, ‘Mutilated Girl’, and extract a photograph. Despite his words on the phone, Edgar decided to spare Max the worst. He selected a picture that showed the girl from the neck up. He was struck again how, despite the pallor and the closed eyes, it could be a glamour shot. Her face was symmetrical and perfect, full lips closed in what was
were dusty floorboards and pipes running along the low ceiling. There was also a strong smell of damp. Edgar passed a dressing room which was obviously shared by the ventriloquist, the sword-swallower and the impressionist. He heard the sound of a champagne cork popping and wondered if that was Walter Armstrong at work. He couldn’t imagine champagne being drunk here otherwise. Max did, at least, have a room to himself. He was drinking whisky and rubbing cold cream into his face. Edgar found
woman he had once seen in a variety show. She had been quite old, but dressed up as a schoolboy. Watching her sing ‘Don’t tell Mamma’ had been a genuinely disturbing experience. What was her name? Max would know. ‘Thank you,’ he said to the flower-seller. ‘You will let me know if you remember anything else?’ ‘You’ll be top of my list,’ said the woman rather enigmatically. But she did present him with a carnation for his buttonhole. ‘Nothing sets off a suit like a nice carnation.’ Ethel’s
foot nothing, this didn’t seem to get them very far. ‘How was he dressed?’ Edgar asked. ‘Was he wearing a coat and hat?’ ‘He had a hat,’ volunteered Desdemona. ‘Like the ones sailors wear.’ ‘A peaked cap?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Did you talk to him? What was his voice like?’ For the first time, a genuine look of fear crossed the girl’s face. ‘He had a horrible voice,’ she said. ‘Sort of whispery.’ ‘Whispery?’ ‘Yes. He asked me if Mr Mulholland was staying here. I said yes. He asked me where his room was.
knife blade to her cheek. ‘He destroyed my face.’ For a moment, she looked almost pleadingly at Edgar. ‘I was beautiful, wasn’t I?’ ‘You still are.’ ‘No.’ Her voice was hard again. ‘People look away from me. They cross the road to avoid me. It’s like being one of the walking dead.’ ‘What are you going to do now?’ Edgar stared at the knife. If she tried to stab him, he thought he had just enough strength to make the chair overbalance backwards. Then, if he could just get one hand free . . .