Hannah Berry, author and illustrator
Paperback: 112 pages
Publisher: Metropolitan Books (March 17, 2009)
Britten and Brülightly is a well written, fantastically illustrated noir mystery. Britten is a private detective who, for years, has specialized so in the tawdry love triangle cases that he has been publicly nicknamed "the Heartbreaker". Despite the encouraging words of his much more upbeat partner, Brülightly, Britten has become tired of both his job and his life. "I don't get out of bed for less than a murder," he said, and it potential murder that persuaded him to crawl out of bed into the public again.
Britten has been contacted by Charlotte Maughan after the apparent suicide of her fiance. To her, the pieces don't fit; she feels it must be a murder made to look like a suicide and hires him to investigate.
Britten and Brülightly is film noir in a graphic novel; it is by far the best written noir I have encountered. It contains the classic elements of great noir : a fractured and down main character; a beautiful lady needing assistance; a complex mystery; realistic (leaning toward the unhappy) ending and leaves the reader or viewer sitting silent in amazement.
Berry's amazing art fits and adds to the story and to the noir feel perfectly. The predominant rain and gray days, the angles and corners, and the nearly monochrome color scheme enhance the feel of the story tremendously. The composition and "film angle", if you will, of the panels is that of a well done movie. They are not the common waist up, front on panels that are so predominant in the average graphic novel. From above, from below, half faces, close-ups: all are used to make an enormous contribution to both plot and ambiance. Berry's particular attention to hands is fantastic.
I had one small complaint: the story is hand written in a font that was, only at times, hard to interpret certain words. Oddly enough, though I had to squint and struggle, I found that in the end this rather added to the story, to the feel of uncertainty, mystery and confusion that were so prevalent in the story.
Britten and Brülightly simply awed me. It's a dark tale, and not a particularly happy one, but totally engrossing and simply stunning--text and image--from the first line ("As it did every morning with spiteful inevitability, the sun rose.") to that last breathtaking scene.
~~Read for the Graphic Novel Challenge.~~