Friday, May 14, 2010

Review by JD: Britten and Brulightly by Hannah Berry


  • Britten and Brϋlightly
  • by Hannah Berry
  • ISBN: 978-0-8050-8927-1
  • Pages: quite a few - paperback
  • Metropolitan Book/Henry Holt and Company, 2008 (first U.S. Edition 2009)
  • Genre: Mystery (Graphic Novel)

John’s Thoughts:

This was only my second ever graphic novel, and it is a delightful book. For those who think graphic novels are just comics for not-quite-grown-ups (a group which would have included me until very recently), this book will come as a big surprise; it has great depth and complexity, and just oozes pathos.

The description on the cover says it all – “A gorgeously drawn, strikingly original graphic novel murder mystery”. Apart from which you just have to love a book that starts “As it did every morning with spiteful inevitability, the sun rose”.

The story is about Fernandez Britten, a private detective who has built a reputation uncovering the dark truths behind suspicious partners and broken relationships. It is a reputation and a role that brings him no comfort at all. Quite the contrary he yearns for the time when uncovering the truth will bring joy to people; but his nickname, the Heartbreaker, says it all. He finds himself in a mid-life crisis and deeply depressed.

He takes on a new case that is brought to him by a young woman. Her fiancée has died and the official verdict is suicide, but she is convinced that there is much more to it. Britten, with the help of his extremely unconventional partner, digs into the case and uncovers a sordid tale of dark family secrets, blackmail, revenge and murder. Finally he comes to realize that some truths are best left untold, but for some it is too late.

The story is convoluted and clever, and oh so black. In some ways it conjures up classic murder mystery writers, but this has a style all of i410SD7hexuL._SL500_AA300_ts own. The mood is lifted just a touch by some marvelous wry humor, and the book is quite brilliantly illustrated.

It’s tough to believe that this is her first novel, and even harder to believe that she illustrated it herself. I’ve got to give this 4.5 stars. If you’ve never read a graphic novel and feel put off by them – you shouldn’t be. This would be a fabulous place to start.


Here is the cover for the UK version, and is available in both versions in Canada - to the right.

We borrowed this book from our very well loved local library. Amazon purchasing links are as follows - US/UK/Canada.

This review was written by John/JD and posted by Shellie. As always John will be addressing your comments.

I am going to add John as a participant in the Graphic Novel Challenge too, as a beginner (3 novels.) He's loving them. Just before I posted this he said “it’s a really good book” and laughed.

Have a great weekend everyone and thanks for reading Layers of Thought!


Jenny said...

This sounds really good! I'm very new to graphic novels (I've read 1 1/2 so far, haha) so I'm on the lookout for good recommendations. I probably won't read a whole lot of them so I want to make sure the ones I do are worth it!!

Aarti said...

This sounds fantastic! Definitely going to be looking out for it in the future. I love that it is a murder mystery. Another one I saw that is about solving mysteries is called Chew. It has an... interesting premise, which I won't give away, but might be worth a look if you can find it! I plan to look into it more later. Great review.

John D said...

Hi Jenny,
Thanks for the comment. I'm now beating you by 1/2 as I've read two! The other graphic novel I've read is also a really clever book that is well worth the time - Watchmen. It's been around a long time but the movie last year gave it a boost. I haven't seen the movie but the book is a winner.

John D said...

Hi Aarti,
Thanks for the comment and nice words. Chew? I'll have to ruminate on that one!!!!!


an the new art work topper

John D said...

Hi Elizabeth,
Shellie says a big "thanks". We're pleased with it too. It makes for a nice change from the old theme.

Charlie said...

I've read exactly no graphic novels, but I trust your recommendations, J.D. This looks like a book I could read with my magnifying glass if it's needed, so I'm going to order it.

John D said...

Hi Charlie - I think you'll enjoy it. It's worth the money for the graphics alone, which are exceptional. But the story is also a killer. (Pun sort of intended).

I'm starting to overcome my preconceived notions about graphics novels. I'm sure there is a lot of rubbish out there, but I'm now 2 for 2 on very satisfying reads.

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