Even the best of us have a bad day and that looks like what has happened here. Brubaker is an exceptional storyteller but it looks like he has bitten off more than he can chew, which is a shame as the exceptional cover art promises us something special.
The story starts well enough with the familiar Brubaker single protagonist and their monologue. Slowly we uncover this man’s past and his secrets. A woman is introduced and shakes things up like only a Noir woman can. Then the shit hits the fan with a double, double-cross and the plot twists and turns. We begin to question the man’s mental state and re-evaluate just how reliable a narrator he is.
Everything was going well and the signs of mental illness are expertly portrayed. The whole uncertainty about who is really telling the truth is very well done. The problem comes when we leave the main character’s point of view and hop into the heads of two other characters and spend a while with them. This destroys the intimacy we have established with our lead. Their narration is third person so we don’t even get to have a Rashomon-like switch to another point of view like we did with Brubaker’s previous volume The Dead and the Dying. Had this jolt come earlier or been a constant fixture of the piece then it might work. But we are so late in the day that this derails the fine tone and pacing that has been working so hard to build.
The art is of the usual high standard. There is a great technique that visually symbolises the lead character’s unbalanced state of mind. This is pure genius and definitely more effective than anything done with words. The cover is also worthy of mention as being a wonderfully noirish, loaded image. Shame it has no relevance to the story within.
I feel bad for my low opinion of this book. I have enjoyed all Brubaker’s previous works and no doubt will enjoy the next ones but this just gets too complicated and drops the ball. No Thumbs today sadly.
Tomorrow: Criminal: The Sinners – Ed Brubaker