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Saturday, January 16, 2016

Good Cop Bad Cop Casebook 3. Only Pigs and Horses Part 1. Jim Alexander (Writer), Aaron Murphy (Art), Chris Twydell (Art Assist), Jim Campbell (Letters), Luke Cooper (Cover Artist).Planet Jimbot (2016)

With the third installment of the story of the wolf in the police officer the story substantially shifts a gear, all the introductions have been done and the context is firmly established, now the story can really take advantage of the brilliant premise. Two police officers respond to a call and are killed, one of them is also savagely mutilated. The nature of the mutilation leads Detective Inspector Brian Fisher to have a conversation with an inmate in Barlinne Prison that may give him a lead.
Jim Alexander solves a very difficult story problem with considerable confidence and skill, the problem is how to build a story that stands by itself and at the same time advance the premise of the series without compromising either. Structurally the solution is very clever, the story is pushed forward by a series of shorter , action filled scenes, the Good Cop Bad Cop premise is pushed forward via two extended sequences that are based around very different conversations that DI Brian Fisher has.
In the first conversation DI Fisher provides an voice over to the action which sets the context for the scene and hints at an on going accommodation with the wolf. In the second conversation DI Fisher explicitly acknowledges the wolf and shares part of the way that he shapes the dual lives. Crucially this information is woven into the current plot as well. The expert way that all the necessary plot mechanics are kept in motion is very impressive, the reader has a chance to relax into the story and enjoy every bit of it  since the writer clearly knows what they are doing.
Aaron Murphy's arts is a pleasure to read,  a sequence talking heads in a static medium like comics is fantastically difficult to maintain a reader's full attention. The details are always subtly shifting from panel to panel so the reader is getting different information each time without ever disrupting the flow of the sequence. The action scenes are full of force and the splash page is a joy to behold.
As usual there is a very strong thread of pitch black humor in the story, the shopping scene is a little jewel of knocking over reader expectations, Aaron Murphy captures all of the humour in the art and the combination of the two is what makes reading comics such a pleasure.
Jim Campbell's letters are unobtrusive and essential, they slip into the story easily and carefully except when they make the reader stop and stare, the combination lettering/sound effect at the explosion is a smart, funny treat.
It is fascinating to read how the premise never overwhelms the story nor is it left behind as being too awkward to maintain. The thoughtful skill and craft the creators bring to the process is astounding, the balance is tightly maintained all the way and a sharply provocative crime story is steadily unfolding. Something new and unexpected is rare in crime fiction and equally rare in comics, it is a serious satisfaction to see it unfurl before us in these pages.
Chief Wizard Note: This is a review copy very kindly send by Jim Alexander. To get a copy of Good Cop Bad Cop 3, I strongly recommend that you give your self a treat and do get it, it will be available at the book launch  at the Geek-aboo comic mart (74 High Street, Glasgow) on 23 Jan 2016.  In attendance will be writer Jim Alexander and Editor and Publisher Ed Murphy.    Alternatively you can order the book online from the Planet Jimbot shop:  https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/261656580/goodcopbadcop301

Friday, January 15, 2016

Night Rounds. Helene Tursten. Laura A. Wideburg (Translation) Soho Press (2012)

A very engaging and enjoyable Swedish police procedural. A nurse is killed in a small, private Swedish hospital and the only witness claims to have seen the hospital ghost doing her rounds at the time of the murder. Inspector Irene Huss is assigned to the case and has to try and establish what actually did happen at the hospital. When it becomes clear that a second nurse is missing the investigation becomes much more complicated. The investigation steadily uncovers a unexpected history that is linked to the hospital and to the ghost, that finally lead to a very well staged confrontation and happily unexpected conclusion.
Detective Irene Huss is a great lead character, thankfully Helene Tursten is willing to allow her to be a competent, capable police professional, surrounded by mostly, equally competent colleagues and with a stable home life. This means that the story can move comfortably between Irene Huss at work and home without any melodrama and with credible tensions in both that drive the story forward and engage the reader.
The supporting cast are equally engaging, they are all given the time and attention needed to get the readers attention and they emerge strongly in thier own right. None of them feel like plot devices, the action of the story involves them and is driven by them rather than the reverse.
Helene Tursten skillfully provides two sub plots , one professional and one personal that run neatly alongside the main story thread. The professional sub plot is concerned with sexual harassment at work and the way it is responded to on an organisational and a personal level. The event itself feels a little to staged, the ripples and consequences are very credibly and sharply described, the personal and professional trade-off that are revealed are relevant and make a forceful point without stepping outside the bounds of the story.The domestic events are handled with equal skill allowing for family dynamics that are complex and durable.
The plot mechanics for the main story thread are excellent, the investigation moves very thoughtfully and the reveals are very well staged. The reader is lead carefully from one possibility to another without being force fed plot points.
Laura A. Wideburg's translation is wholly transparent, the story is entirely Swedish and the language feels natural and direct. A very smart crime story, well worth reading.