By Fabien Vehlmann (W)
and Denis Bodart (A)
Published by Cinebook, 2008; 56 pages; $13.95
I won’t risk losing any readers by saving the verdict for the end — I loved this book and cannot heap enough praise on it.
A puzzling scenario opens the collection, as a psychiatrist arrives at a mental institution to speak with an inmate who believes himself to be the Green Manor Club personified. This introduction really only serves as a frame story to introduce several seeming stand-alone tales of activities within the club. I’d dismiss the frame as an irrelevant distraction if not for the fact that the close to the book suggests it will be advanced in the next volume, but either way, the self-contained short stories here are definitely enough to sustain a book on its own if they had to.
Each story revolves around some Club members planning, investigating or otherwise romanticizing a murder, and each story also includes an ironic twist at the end. In one story, an elderly member presents fellow club patrons with a murderous riddle they have to solve; in another, two club members attempt to plan the perfect murder. It’s like dark comic O. Henry, or the French origins and psychiatric issues involved might even indicate a nod to Guy de Maupassant. Regardless, the cast of characters are easily unlikeable enough for the reader to gleefully follow along as various characters meet their undoing.
The pattern becomes evident early on, but the fun is always not in what will happen but how it will happen. It’s enjoyable as fiction but at the same time very admirable on the craft level, as so few pages are required to tell such memorable stories.
The art is cartoony but perfect for carrying the ironic comedy; the darkness of the stories would probably be a detriment with a more realistic style. It allows for the right level of detachment to watch these despicable people humorously navigate themselves through this world they’ve created through their own arrogance.
The Grade: A+
Green Manor vol. I is fantastic. It’s a quick read but definitely worth revisiting. I can’t recommend it enough. Volume II, The Inconvenience of Being Dead, is due out next month.