fantasy and science fiction book reviewsfantasy and science fiction book reviewsGrandville, Mon Amour by Bryan Talbot

Grandville, Mon Amour is the second in Bryan Talbot’s steampunk graphic novel series with highly evolved animals, in a world where Napoleon conquered all of Europe and Britain has only been an independent country for twenty-three years. British badger Detective-Inspector Archie LeBrock and his partner Ratzi, a rat, are back on a case that will take them back to Paris, also called Grandville. As Ratzi puts it, “We’re like a pair of bloomin’ boomerangs.”

In the opening, a prisoner is dragged out of a brutal maximum security cell for execution. The tables soon turn as the cowering prisoner draws a weapon and kills his way free. The prisoner, Mad Dog Mastock, was a savage insurgent in Britain’s struggle for freedom, and once the revolution was over, he continued killing and mutilating, mostly prostitutes. Within hours, the trail is cold, and LeBrock is incensed to find that his superior, the Brigadier, has assigned a lackluster detective to the case. LeBrock storms out and decides to investigate the escape on his own time, and soon Ratzi has put in for leave and is helping him.

grandville 1The trail leads to Grandville, where two prostitutes are viciously murdered in the style of Mad Dog. LeBrock trades barbs with Madam Riverhorse, who runs the expensive brothel where both girls worked. Riverhorse is, as you would expect, a hippopotamus – and a jaundiced, coldhearted businesswoman who doesn’t waste much time mourning the deaths of her employees. Soon though, it is clear that the story is not straightforward and that once again there are political secrets being protected. LeBrock is distracted from the case by a face from the past, a working girl who reminds him of his lost love. “Billlie,” a beautiful badger prostitute, is a different kettle of fish from the woman whose memory she evokes, and may have clues that will help solve the mystery. They may also put her in danger, especially when Mad Dog sees her with LeBrock and recognizes that there is an attraction.

grandville 2As far as the plot goes, it was obvious pretty early on just who was being shielded, and from what. I don’t read the Grandville series for intricate, puzzling plots. I read it for the beautiful artwork and some of the quippy asides. LeBrock’s teal-colored trench-coat and bowler hat are distinctive; Ratzi’s elegance and his gun-cane are always a pleasure to see. Talbot does amazing things with animal faces, and makes great color choices. There is a wealth of information in a single frame; for example, I would not have thought that a close-up of a grain of rice lying on a street corner could be fraught with suspense, but here it is. In this book, Talbot indulges himself, and us, with some pure steam-punk scenes, as one confrontation takes place in an abandoned factory. Talbot’s imagining of a semi-automatic pistol, with a stiff magazine that rests at right angles to the barrel instead of a flexible belt of cartridges, is one precisely rendered fancy.

While it didn’t have the sweep or originality of the first book, Grandville Mon Amour is a respectable entry in the series, expanding the characters if not necessarily the world-view. And it’s gorgeous.


  • Marion Deeds

    Marion Deeds, with us since March, 2011, is the author of the fantasy novella ALUMINUM LEAVES. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies BEYOND THE STARS, THE WAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, and in Podcastle, The Noyo River Review, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She’s retired from 35 years in county government, and spends some of her free time volunteering at a second-hand bookstore in her home town.

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