Illustrator: Denis Bodart
Lettering and text layout: Imadjinn
Translator: Elaine Kemp
What's it about?
A cup of tea? A drop of milk? A spoonful of poison?
At first sight, nothing would make the very select club called Green Manor stand out from any other English club. Yet behind its thick walls, sunk into its deep chairs, hides the biggest bunch of con artists, bandits and murderers that Queen Victoria’s England has ever seen.
Can there be a murder without a victim and a murderer? Is the pride of Scotland Yard worthy of his reputation? Can murder complement art?
Green Manor contains several different tales of murder and mayhem, as told and implemented by the members of a posh gentleman's club in Victorian London. These fellows are boorish and pompous, intoxicated by their own cleverness. As a consequence, the challenges issued from one to another are fantastic (in the old sense of the word), foolhardy and border on the ridiculous.
What's good about it?
The characters are what you'd expect from a private members club, filled by the rich in that day and age. Having said that, they are very entertaining. It's delicately told, with grace and humour (and more than a hint of mockery).
It's divided into several short stories, with a nice introduction and conclusion that frames the whole thing wonderfully. It's not a dark and heavy whodunit, not like a Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie story. It's humorous, and while there is an element of solving riddles, that's not the be all and end all. I mean, I loathe detective fiction. It's the one genre I've never been able to care about, yet I found a lot of things to love about this book.
What's bad about it?
It's too short. Seriously, it's only 56 (A4) pages long. But wait, I hear you cry, there's another volume available! Oh well, that's all good then.
What's the art like?
Most of it is dark and gloomy - befitting stories of dark and grisly murders in gaslit old London. It's a great period piece - cartoonish enough not to be overly detailed, but with enough sense of the day and age, from the horse and carriage transport, to the clothes, to the furniture in each room. The gentlemen at Green Manor are so snooty they are pretty much always drawn holding their noses aloft! I love this from of visual storytelling - good comics should give you as much information and feeling from the art as from the narrative. This book does so in spades.
Buy it here (and please, buy it from the publishers, not from Amazon or Waterstones or some other faceless corporation). Buy volume 2 here.
Many thanks to Cinebook, purveyors of Europe's finest non English language comics, for providing the review copy for me.