Narrator: James Langton
Series: Stephens & Mephisto Mystery #1
Published by Blackstone Audiobooks on September 15, 2015
Length: 8 hrs 4 mins
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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 ventriloquists, sword-swallowers and dancing girls. Changing times mean that variety is not what it once was, yet Max is reluctant to leave this world to help Edgar investigate. But when the dead girl turns out to be known to him, Max changes his mind.
Another death, another magic trick: Edgar and Max become convinced that the answer to the murders lies in their army days. When Edgar receives a letter warning of another ‘trick’, the Wolf Trap, he knows that they are all in danger…
I’ve read a couple of Griffiths’ other books and enjoyed them well enough. Honestly though, I picked up this series because of the magic connection. I love a good magician and here we have one helping solve crimes.
When the head and legs of a young woman are discovered in two black cases at Brighton train station, the case falls to Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens. Then the woman’s torso is sent to him at the department, addressed to him using his military rank, Captain. The state of the woman’s body in the three boxes reminds Edgar of a magician’s trick, known as the Zig Zag Girl, performed by an old army buddy, Max Mephisto. The two had served with a group known as the “Magic Men” who were tasked with setting up deceptions to make the Germans think that the east coast of Scotland was well defended. Edgar tracks down Max, now a popular theater magician. Edgar and Max believe the murder has some connection to the Magic Men and they begin talking to the other men they served with.
The Zig Zag Girl is set largely in Brighton, England during the 1950s and we can see the shabbiness of the seaside town. The post-WW2 era is portrayed well. The theater and world and variety acts allow for some colorful characters.
Edgar is likeable, a little reserved but thoughtful and loyal. He gets a little hint of romance towards the end which is nice. Max is more animated, but also finding the theater life a bit tiring. It’s his one-liners and sarcasm that make the book fun. The two make a good team.
The mystery was well-done. As is often the case, if some of the folks Edgar and Max talked to had given them everything they knew, even if it didn’t seem to matter, it might have been solved quicker. We get a couple more murders after the first and Edgar is lucky he wasn’t one of the victims himself. But he has friends backing him up. The other cops though don’t seem to do much. Really, how much can possibly be going on in Brighton that they couldn’t have helped him out a bit more?