The Case Of The Lonely One (Bad Machinery #4) by John Allison

Oh gosh, for Mother’s Day, my husband got me the first of John Allison’s new series Wicked Things, featuring a 19 year-old Charlotte Grote. Since I’m still working my way through my backlog of the Bad Machinery comics where she and her friends originally appear, I’ve been keeping that as a reward for when I finally have time to catch up on the series (which I don’t even own all of yet, ha. Sooon!) I actually accidentally read Book 5 before this one but have finally found a moment to catch up, at least to my current Bad Machinery reading timeline.

As The Case Of The Lonely One begins, our intrepid heroes discover that Lottie, with her bad grades and her inability to get her parent’s signature on the right form, won’t be in the same class as everyone else now that second form has begun. At least Lottie will have Little Claire to hang out with, as they wait for their form teacher, the mysterious Mrs Lord, to finally arrive. Our other five student sleuths are at the mercy of wound-tight Mr Sprink, who terrorizes them in the traditional manner of British schoolmasters since time immemorial.

When the kids notice a new student, Lem, they’re initially put off by his partiality towards eating raw onions. He lives on a nearby onion farm, but still! However, each of the friends slowly falls under his spell, which completely bewilders Shauna, the only one of the group who doesn’t automatically say “he’s a right good laugh once you get to know him” whenever the subject of him is raised. Convinced that something is amiss, Shauna recruits the only other unaffected students, the members of the RPG Club, to help her. But working together won’t be as easy as Shauna imagines, as Blossom, till then the undisputed head of the club, feels threatened not only by Shauna’s presence but by the attention she’s getting from Corky, another group member. Will Shauna be able to overcome the mystifying loss of her fast friends and her new lack of trustworthy allies in her quest to expose Lem for who, or perhaps what, he truly is?

This was another winning installment of this extremely charming series of young detectives and their fantastic hijinks in small-town England. Told with verve, humor and a keen insight into the language and emotions of pre-adolescents, these books tell ripping good yarns that are also deeply smart about the fundamental truths of growing up. In TCotLO, Mr Allison notes that adults tend to forget how to talk to children, a skill he certainly hasn’t lost himself if these books are any indicator.

The only trouble I had with this book — and this is entirely a me problem that could be swiftly remedied by either going through the previous books again or hurrying up and reading the next few; I own at least two more in the series now, and need to look into getting the rest once I finally have time to read them all — was that I have no idea who Jack was greeting in the final panel. I’m assuming it was someone from a previous book, as I don’t think it’s any of the people who show up in Book 5, The Case Of The Fire Inside? I’m also dying to read more of Blossom, whom I don’t think signifies in TCotFI either. I imagine she’ll play a pivotal role in Shauna’s life going forward, if Little Claire’s expanded presence here was anything to go by (and what delightful notes by Mr Allison on that development in his afterword too!)

I really love how the characters grow as the series progresses, with this book focusing a bit on Mildred and Shauna learning to be friends without Lottie playing constant intermediary, and Shauna figuring out how to be the sole investigator for a change. It all leads in beautifully to the next book, which I desperately want to re-read right now but simply don’t have the time to. One of these days!

The Case Of The Lonely One by John Allison was published October 23 2015 by Oni Press and is available from all good booksellers, including

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