The graphic novel is treated as film noir in this deftly written, visually stunning debut.
This first effort from Britain’s Berry suggests that the graphic novel would have been the ideal medium for Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, though her detective isn’t as hard-boiled as theirs. An Ecuadorean transplant to London, Fernández Britten has tired of the sort of domestic surveillance that has earned him the reputation as “the Heartbreaker,” even though, as the private detective realizes, “most of them already knew what they paid me to tell them.” So he decides that he will only take murder cases, matters of life and death. It isn’t clear when he accepts an invitation to meet Charlotte Maughton, an attractive heiress whose father runs a publishing company, that there is any murder to investigate. Her fiancé, who is also her father’s assistant, has apparently killed himself. But Charlotte insists that what others believe to be suicide was actually a murder involving the blackmailing of her father. His publishing company may not be what it seems. Even Charlotte may not be who she seems. “Things would have been very simple if they weren’t so damn complicated,” says the detective, a sensitive soul who prefers the term “researcher” to private investigator. What he ultimately discovers is that “the world is a bad place full of bad people,” as he wrestles with his conscience over how much of what he has learned he should reveal. The plot has plenty of psychological depth and narrative twists, but even more impressive is Berry’s visual command, the subtlety of her occasional use of color amid various shades of gray and the manner in which her work transcends conventional panels.
This isn’t just inspired comics artistry, its inspired artistry.