Three or four weeks ago, I received a package in the mail at work, opened it, thought it looked nice and put it on the shelf. This week, weeding my e-mails, I came across a missive from a woman named Ashley, dated March 17, asking me if I would like to receive a review copy of Britten and Brülightly, “Hannah Berry’s gorgeously drawn and strikingly original debut graphic novel murder mystery.”
So, I thought I had better actually READ the thing. Yes, it LOOKED nice; I could tell that at first glance. But I’ve always been one of those people where the greater issue is the story. Serviceable art can support a great story, but the best art can’t save a lousy tale, IMO.
Now I’ve promised -again – that I’d write a review. But what if it’s just not very good?
Fortunately, it’s very good.
I enjoyed this from the very first sentence: “As it did every morning, with spiteful inevitability, the sun rose.” It conveys a noir mood, but it is punctuated with a certain whimsy, as provided by the interplay between “researcher” Fernández Britten and his unlikely partner, Stewart Brülightly, as they attempt to figure out whether a women’s dead fiancé committed suicide, as the police concluded, or was murdered, as she maintains.
English author Berry has blended characterization and story together in a seemingly effortless way. Upon further inspection, the art does not merely accompany the story, it really enhances it.
There are points where the narration explains the story, lest you miss it in the drawing; ultimately, this turns out to be a good thing. The one criticism I’ve seen is that the cursive narration can be difficult to read; I did not find this to be so.