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The Zig Zag Girl

(Stephens & Mephisto Mystery #1)

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3.56  ·  Rating details ·  4,816 ratings  ·  763 reviews
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 ventriloqu
...more
Hardcover, 328 pages
Published November 6th 2014 by Quercus
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Popular Answered Questions
Asteropê Because it's published first in the UK, than in the US. Perhaps the UK publisher (Quercus) stipulated they wanted some time before the US release? It…moreBecause it's published first in the UK, than in the US. Perhaps the UK publisher (Quercus) stipulated they wanted some time before the US release? It happens. Sometimes UK and US releases occur at the same time. Sometimes the US gets it months (or more) before the UK. Since the author is from the UK and her publisher is UK based, it will favor the UK market. All others come after. Best thing to do, is have patience in situations like this. ;-)

You can always contact the US publisher/distrubutor for a specific reasoning - http://www.hmhco.com - Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (less)

Community Reviews

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3.56  · 
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Diane S ☔
Jul 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brighton, 1950, variety shows are on the way out, magic shows not as popular as they had been, television soon to make its appearance. After the war Edgar wanted to make a difference in people's lives so though he was expected to return to Oxford, he decided instead to become a policeman. When a body is delivered to the station in pieces, it becomes Inspector Edgar's case, a case that will bring him to Max Memphisto a famous magician and a man that Edgar served with in a secret unit called the M ...more
Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede
Dec 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2015
I saw that book two is coming out now this fall and thought perhaps it was time to read the first book since I have had the ARC just around a year waiting for me to read. Elly Griffiths is the author of the Ruth Galloway series, a series I quite enjoy reading so I was curious to see how this new series would be.

The new series takes place in the 1950s Brighton and Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens must solve a case of a murdered woman. The body has been cut in three bits and this reminds him of
...more
Rob Kitchin
Dec 28, 2014 rated it it was ok
I loved the title, cover and premise for The Zig Zag Girl, but was disappointed by the story itself. I’ve liked Elly Griffiths ‘Ruth Galloway’ series and given my taste for fiction set in the 1930s-1950s, interest in police procedurals and tales relating to the Second World War, I had high hopes for the book. However, the police procedural elements were unrealistic and the war-time aspects full of inaccuracies and fanciful ideas. For example, the case concerns a high profile set of murders, yet ...more
Aditi
"Illusion is the first of all pleasures."
----Oscar Wilde

Elly Griffiths, an English author, have spin a thrilling tale of magic and illusions set in the post-WWII Britain in her new book, The Zig Zag Girl. This is her first book, after her very successful Dr Ruth Galloway series.

Synopsis:
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 E
...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Apr 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
I thought this was an enjoyable, quick read in a fun time period and a fun setting - post WW2 in Brighton, and a body shows up in pieces. This leads to investigations of magicians and their assistants, a secret magic spy ring from the war, and pokey little British beach towns that still hire magicians and comedians.

I notice many of the reviews mention that they tried this series after loving the author's previous series, the Ruth Galloway series, so I'll have to check them out.
Brenda
Feb 25, 2016 rated it liked it
This book is a departure from the Ruth Galloway series and starts a new series. The main character is Edgar Stephens, currently a Detective Inspector, formerly a member of WWII's the Magic Men. When a case involves a victim who was cut into thirds ala a magic trick called The Zig Zag Girl, Edgar contacts Max Mephisto, a fellow member of the Magic Men who had invented the magic trick.

This was an enjoyable book, but I think not of the same caliber as the Ruth Galloway books. This book didn't grab
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Liz Barnsley
I’m a fan of Elly Griffiths Ruth Galloway novels so was really looking forward to diving into this one, a standalone novel inspired by her Grandfather.

I loved it. Beautifully written to give a sense of the time, a terrific mystery story and a wonderful flow, plus some great characters made this a really really fun read.

Edgar, Max and the so called “Magic Men” are a fascinating and eclectic bunch, brought back together by a strange murder that mimicks an old magic trick – The Zig Zag Girl. As Edg
...more
sue
Nov 30, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-book, mystery


I am a bit late in coming to the table to read this one.
But I am glad I got around finally to reading it, or should I say "listening" to it as I listened to it on Audio today.

I was lucky enough to get this from Quercus Books via Net Galley, but seeing as I have it on audio I decided to listen to this today whilst doing other chores.

We have Edgar, who is the DI.
And Max the magician.

Both of them know each other from a past that later comes to light as Edgar is reporting back to his Sergeant.

I
...more
Marianne
Dec 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The Zig Zag Girl is the first book in the Stephens and Mephisto Mystery series by British author, Elly Griffiths. Brighton, England, 1950: the young woman had been sawn in three; the parts, contained in black wooden boxes fastened with brass clips, were discovered in the Left Luggage room of the railway station. Witness descriptions are vague, but several aspects of the case cause DI Edgar Stephens, lead investigator, to travel to Eastbourne to seek out Max Mephisto, magician.

Their association
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Shelleyrae at Book'd Out

Elly Griffiths popular Ruth Galloway series has been on my to-read list for sometime but I've been loathe to start a new series given my current reading commitments. I pounced then on the opportunity to read her first stand alone, The Zig Zag Girl.

When the head and legs of a young woman are discovered in two black cases at Brighton train station, Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens doesn't have to wait long to discover the whereabouts of her torso when a third box is delivered to him at work. Cur
...more
Eva
Aug 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’m sure many of you are familiar with Elly Griffiths’ other series featuring Ruth Galloway (So behind on that one as well. I’ve only read four 🙈) but this one is very different. I’d heard quite a lot about The Vanishing Box, the fourth book in this Stephens and Mephisto Mystery series but as always, I was compelled to start at the beginning.

When the body of a young girl is found, DI Stephens is immediately reminded of a magic trick gone wrong. The girl’s body has been cut up into three pieces,
...more
Lisa
Nov 04, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-suspense
The Zig Zag girl by Elly Griffiths is the first in her new series DI Stephens & Max Mephisto I was intrigued at the beginning but it got a bit slow with all the character introductions there was to much hocus pocus & was very slow at times for me.


I couldn't get into the characters at all not that I still didn't turn the pages but it just didn't do anything for me I have read a few Ruth Galloway books in Miss Griffiths other series I found much better not sure if I want to read the second
...more
Allison
I really enjoyed the setting of this historical mystery. It's set in the British seaside town of Brighton in post World War II, and the main characters are a policeman and his wartime friend, a performing magician. We get a fascinating glimpse of the variety show world in the times when TV was just about to take over entertainment. That's what really helped to set this apart from other historical mysteries.

I did have my suspicions about the murderer quite early on, but there was plenty of doubt
...more
Raven
Oct 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I always think it’s a brave decision by an established series author such as Griffiths with her hugely popular Ruth Galloway novels, to step outside of the familiar and tackle a standalone (or opener to a possible new series). I had similar fears with Belinda Bauer, on the publication of Rubbernecker, but Griffiths like Bauer has succeeded admirably in my opinion. Having said that, I would partly put my enjoyment of The Zig Zag Girl down to my own fascination with the world of magic, particularl ...more
Lee
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
...more
LJ
First Sentence: “Looks as if someone’s sliced her into three,” said Solomon Carter, the police surgeon, chattily.

Two thirds of a female body have been found; the head and the legs. Having been a member of “The Magic Men,” a Secret Service team of which he had been part during WWII, leads Edgar to reconnect with fellow member, Max Mephisto, especially after the shocking identify of the victim has been learned. A letter delivered to Edgar with the name of another magic trick, and another death, fo
...more
Helena Dahlgren
Aug 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fin kontrast till saltängsmyset i Ruthböckerna. Post-WW2-Brighton, magi, trådsliten dekadens, vardagstristess, omaka och sympatiskt deckarpar. Kommer definitivt läsa hela serien.
Leah
Nov 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Abracadabra...

When the legs and head of a beautiful young woman are found in two boxes in the Left Luggage office at Brighton station, something about the body makes Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens think of an old magic trick, the Zig Zag Girl. But when the missing torso turns up in a box addressed to him under his old army title of Captain, he begins to realise that whatever the motive is, it's personal. So he turns for advice to top stage magician, Max Mephisto, who served with him during t
...more
Bill Kupersmith
Oct 31, 2014 rated it liked it
I was attracted to The Zig Zag Girl because a principal character, Max Mephisto, was based on a real English stage magician, Jasper Maskelyne, who’d led a specialist unit during the Second World War creating illusory weapons to fool the enemy, such as papier-mâché tanks & wooden cannons. But this book is not just one historical mystery, but two. The main story is set in 1950, centring round Brighton. But there’s also a backstory set some ten years earlier, featuring an army deception unit st ...more
Steven
Got this one right!!! :)
John Matsui
Apr 13, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery, murder, thriller, war
The Zig Zag Girl opens with DI Edgar Stephens investigating a woman’s savage murder in 1950.
When Stephens views the corpse – or at least two bits, the head and legs – his mind travels back to his years with the Magic Men, a secret squad of magicians assembled during the Second World War whose skills at deception were harnessed to confuse the Germans about military movements.
The woman’s body was cut in a pattern similar to a magic trick called the Zig Zag Girl made famous by magician and key squ
...more
Susan Johnson
May 26, 2015 rated it liked it
3.5 stars

This is a stand alone novel by the author of one of my favorite mystery series with Ruth Galloway as the main character. This one takes place five years after WWII and involves men who served together in a special unit stationed in Inverness, Scotland. Most of them were magicians whose job it was to trick the Germans into thinking Britain had more defenses than it actually did.

A women's body is found cut up in zig zag fashion in the style of a magical act and Edgar, a former member of
...more
Richard
Sep 24, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-15, mystery
Based on the cover, title, and synopsis, I was expecting an entirely different book. I was hoping for a bit of fun. A witty caper with eccentric, flamboyant characters. What I got was a somewhat drab procedural about depressed pessimists.

Then there's a ridiculous climax that does offer some pulp cliffhanger thrills, which were enjoyable but seemed out of place. Either too little too late, or too goofy given the tone of the rest of the novel.

It's not a bad book, but it was a disappointment
.
Rachel Hall
Nov 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
DI Edgar Stephens might think his days attached to the shadowy unit dubiously monikered the "Magic Men" are history as he seeks to make a life after the war effort, opting for public service over returning to Oxford, but the discovery of two separate parts of a corpse in the Left Luggage office at Brighton station reveals just how wrong he can be. Occupying digs in the suitably down-at-heel seaside town of Brighton and working for the force, much to his mother's chagrin, the discovery of two bla ...more
Amber
I was expecting more from this and wound up feeling a tad bit bored waiting for something interesting to happen.
Lisa
Dec 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio
Crime drama set in 1950 in Brighton, England.

Edgar is a detective who is confronted by a murder that has links to magic tricks and his army days which leads him to look up his friend Max Mephisto whom he served with in the army and who now makes a living as a stage magician.

The two men couldn't be more different and yet they both get drawn into the mystery as more murders occur and it all becomes a lot more personal for both of them.

I really enjoyed this murder mystery - I loved the fifties sett
...more
Kathy
I am such an enthusiastic fan of Elly Griffiths' Ruth Galloway series that I was stunned when I found out that Elly was departing from that fascinating fare to publish a stand alone. Of course, I didn't panic because I knew that she also had a new Ruth Galloway coming out in 2015. However, it is a bold move for an author of a well-established and well-loved series to embark on such a departure. Even though I know that Elly Griffiths is a brilliant writer, I was still skeptical that I could love ...more
Richard
Aug 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
This is a lovingly told story set in Brighton in 1950 seeped in the world of end of pier shows and variety theatre. Elly Griffiths' has moved her focus away from modern day Norfolk to recount a tale close to her heart and closer to home.
I loved the form of the book with magic and illusion running through it from start to finish, from title to acknowledgements. The plot is very credible and lends itself to a detective novel. The cast of characters have depth and carry interest in both their milit
...more
Naomi
Oct 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Synopsis: Brighton, 1950, a woman's body shows up cut up into 3 pieces. When police identify her, she is the Zig Zag Girl for magician, Max Mephisto, it must be determined why this method was chosen to kill her. When more bodies show up, it is up to DI Edgar Stephens to find out who is targeting a group of magicians who performed together in WWII.

My rating: 5 Stars

My opinion: Another engrossing read and start to a brand new series from author Elly Griffiths. This book took off so quickly that I
...more
Bruce Hatton
Jan 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: english-crime
Having run out of Ruth Galloway books to read, I decided to give Elly Griffiths' other series a go. A far cry from Ruth's contemporary Norfolk, this is set in Brighton, Sussex in 1950. The novel manages to capture the seedy run-down post-war atmosphere perfectly. A time when rationing, state censorship and conscription still hadn't been entirely phased out.
Despite all the obvious differences between this book and the Ruth Galloway series, I still felt they were recognisably and reassuringly the
...more
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Elly Griffiths' Ruth Galloway novels take for their inspiration Elly's husband, who gave up a city job to train as an archaeologist, and her aunt who lives on the Norfolk coast and who filled her niece's head with the myths and legends of that area. Elly has two children and lives near Brighton. Though not her first novel, The Crossing Places is her first crime novel.

Other books in the series

Stephens & Mephisto Mystery (5 books)
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  • The Blood Card (Stephens & Mephisto Mystery, #3)
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