The Zig-Zag Girl
You know how sometimes you eat something, and it tastes pretty good, but you end up vaguely deflated? You feel like, yeah, I kinda liked doing it, but I'm never going to get those calories back. It doesn't mean you might not eat it again. But it does make you think about how much better it could have tasted.
That, as I'm sure you're anticipating, is The Zig-Zag Girl. There was a lot I liked about this book. The writing was pretty good. The characterization was better than that--the characters were not merely types, but individuals. And the setting was outstanding. Griffiths does a terrific job evoking the shabby-glamorous, world-within-a-world atmosphere of the last days of the old English music-hall circuit. The pacing isn't half-bad, either, although I was mildly irritated to find the police doing routine legwork on page 250 that they should have been doing on page 25.
But, dear God, the cliches! There's not a twist, not a turn, not a revelation that's not a hackneyed two-bit standard. In particular, there's this plot that English mystery scriptwriters follow with messianic devotion. It goes like this: some time ago, something bad happened to someone. Now, years later, someone connected with the bad event has suddenly gone bat-shit obsessive insane, and goes around murdering everyone involved according to some bizarre thematic scheme (the victims are slain based on the lines of a song, a writer's books, astrological signs ... ). The police, meanwhile, stand around watching bodies pile up until finally some revelation from out of the blue tells them who the killer is.
This has been the plot of, I kid you not, the last seven British TV mysteries that I have watched. (If you're keeping score, these would be the Midsomer Murders episodes "The Dagger Club," "Murder By Magic," "The Ballad of Midsomer County", and "A Vintage Murder", and the Lewis episodes "Old, Unhappy, Far-Off Things", "Wild Justice", and "The Gift of Promise".) Regrettably, Elly Griffiths has imbibed whatever drug makes British writers think that this is a great idea, as well as all of the standard Murder 101 Gimmicks that they use to dress it up. If you can't guess the complete plot by the middle of the book, you're not trying.
I won't say I didn't get pleasure from reading The Zig-Zag Girl. I might even pick up another one by the same author. Hey, sometimes you're in the mood to stuff yourself with Twizzlers and Cheetos. I won't feel great afterwards, though.