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Britten and Brülightly    by Hannah Berry order for
Britten and Brülightly
by Hannah Berry
Order:  USA  Can
Metropolitan, 2009 (2009)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The gloomy atmosphere of this noir graphic novel mystery rises from its pages like a dark mist. The first few panels sets the mood - 'As it did every morning / with spiteful inevitability / the sun rose' - while the details of Hannah Berry's dark-toned drawings bring to mind a Chandler novel.

The big-nosed, suicidal looking narrator, Fernández Britten, has run a PI agency for ten years. Initially hoping to serve humanity and right wrongs, he's attracted a different type of client - 'either jealous lovers seeking justification for their jealousy, or vengeful lovers seeking dirt on jealous lovers.' They call him The Heartbreaker. He's 'not an action hero' and his agency partner, Stewart Brülightly, is a most unusual character.

Britten is hired by the obligatory femme fatale, independently wealthy Charlotte Maughton (daughter of a publisher) - who reminds him of a swan 'on lithium' - to investigate the death of her fiancé, 'a good Samaritan in a bad tie.' He unearths blackmail, with a connection to an old case. As he digs through the morass, he suffers the blow to the head that tends to plague old school PIs and stumbles upon another corpse.

When it's all over, Britten muses, 'Absolute morality is a luxury for the short-sighted.' Those who enjoy their mysteries expresso noir should really try Britten and Brülightly, a masterfully illustrated graphic novel whodunit where the PI saves his client from the real villain of the piece ... the truth.

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