This is a first for the blog – A comic book review, from Europe Comics. This comic was originally written in French, but last month was released in English in two parts. As the title suggests the story is about the early days of the Detection Club and its key members. Below you can see which members feature in the story:
The story opens at one of the club’s dinner parties and John Dickson Carr is being sworn in, with the text mentioning the various rules members had to promise to observe. The dinner party then moves onto Knox’s ten commandments and G. K. Chesterton, (the then president of the club), is moved to talk more generally about what makes a good detective novel. These opening pages are excellent for grounding those less familiar with the Detection Club.
But then a robotic bird, (yes you read that correctly), flies in with this message:
Of course, the club members rush off to the island where they meet their billionaire host, Roderick Ghyll. Also, at his home is his second wife, his stepdaughter, his American Chinese butler, his French chef and Dr Arno Zumtod, whose work Ghyll has been financing. Ghyll, to be polite, is not a pleasant man and he tweaks every Detective Club member’s nose out of joint. Not least because of his automaton detector named Eric; a robot which can solve any detective novel, reducing the stories down to mere codes and numbers! But before the night is out cries are heard from Ghyll’s locked bedroom, and when they break the door down it appears that Ghyll has been thrown through his window and fallen 100ft down into the sea below.
It goes without saying that the Detection Club members are determined to figure things out. But will they be able to do what they have so frequently written about?
Pastiches and parodies are not easy to do well, and you could say that Harambat has set himself a herculean task here. Yet, on the whole, I think he has accomplished his goals very well. The Detection Club members are entertainingly depicted, and the writer has avoided over-revering them. They are not portrayed as infallible and they wonderfully rub each other up the wrong way. None of them are mealy-mouthed, so if they have something to say then they will say it! The humour is well-crafted, and this is a story that you will laugh out loud with, when reading.
The story is also a nod to classic crime more generally – with two notable examples being Christie’s And Then There Were None and Carr’s Crooked Hinge. The recitation of Knox’s rules is no matter of mere padding and as the reader progresses through the comic they will see how the plot intersects these various rules. This area is handled deftly by the writer, ensuring that the plot can withstand such additions. Though it must be said that you mustn’t take things too seriously!
Harambat often focuses on the Detection Club members in pairs, which is a strength of the way the story is told. Chesterton and Christie are one such pairing, which worked really well, as both have an impressive repertoire of retorts for one another. The latter third of Part 1 and Part 2 of the comic reveal the detective fiction writers trying to uncover the truth behind Ghyll’s death and I think a good job has been made of differentiating their methods. Carr gets stuck into the “how” of the crime, though unfortunately no one wants to look at his detailed map of the house. Whilst Christie uses conversation as a means of eliciting motives. None of them are perfect detectives. Blunders and failures gleefully present themselves for the readers’ enjoyment. Tensions run high so it is not surprising that some of the Detection Club members accuse each other. The final solution, given the diverse elements of the crime, was very fitting and the epilogue is endearingly sweet.
I only have two niggles with the comic. The first is the characterisation of Dorothy L. Sayers. Whilst I appreciate that the story cannot give the same amount of time to all of the Detection Club members, I think she gets too overlooked. Moreover, I think she is shown to be too quiet and too un-proactive, which for me, didn’t really fit with the person which comes through in her various writings. My second niggle is an odd one. Normally I often bemoan writers who pad their works out, yet I find myself here wishing that Part 2 of the story could have been expanded. I feel there was definitely room for expansion within the plot.
However, as my final rating shows this is a highly recommended title, which I hugely enjoyed and found to be a lot of laugh-out-loud fun! I really hope more titles will be forthcoming in the series.
Source: Review Copy (Netgalley)