by Elly Griffiths
My rating: 4 of 5 starts
Received for review from Amazon Vine
The ‘Zig Zag Girl‘ (Houghton Mifflin 2015) is Elly Griffiths’ first in her new series, Magic Men Mysteries. Griffiths, acclaimed author of the Ruth Galloway series and winner of the Mary Higgins Clark Award, is a powerful writer with a knack for putting readers in her character’s skin, feeling their emotions and worrying with them as they ponder their next step. I read several of the Galloway novels, but got tired of the opinionated and independent Galloway (I know; I’m in the minority).
But I didn’t tire of Griffiths’ gritty voice, nor her everyman approach to solving problems. When ‘Zig Zag Girl‘ showed up in my Vine queue (where I receive free pre-publication copies of novels), I ordered it. This story is set in the 1950s when WWII still cast a deep shadow over lives. A group of soldiers whose weapon during the War was the use of deception and misdirection to confuse the Germans found themselves the target of a serial killer who was modeling his/her murders after popular magic tricks (like the Zig Zag Girl).
In true Griffiths’ style, there’s as much about the characters, their emotions and reactions, as forward movement in the plot. Readers spend a lot of time getting to know these individuals, which is fine: They are quite interesting. Part of this journey is substantial flashbacks to their war years, especially during the book’s first half. It’s clear the past will play as big a part in this mystery as the people these former soldiers have become. This is strengthened by the fact that Griffiths writes in omniscient third person–we are privy to every quibble and doubt experienced by the two main characters, Inspector Edgar Stephens and magician Max Mephisto. This–for me–slows the plot down. I have to re-orient myself each time I switch to another perspective, trying to determine who knows this set of facts and who is yet to discover them. In the end, the story is as much about outgrowing dreams as solving a murder.
There are many reasons to read this book, but for me, the historic descriptions of life after WWII, policing before technology took over, and the crumbling world of a vaudeville magician was right at the top. It’s a fresh, new take on part of history I have never before experienced.
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Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.