It’s become a tradition of recent years for me to use the Christmas holiday to read another Bad Machinery book, to just sit finally and take the time to put my feet up and enjoy these books that perfectly distil everything I like about reading. Mystery: check. Humor: check. Empathy: check. A hint or more of the paranormal: check. The fact that it features British schoolkids in a graphic novel format is just icing on the cake for me.
And so this year, a bit belatedly due to my sister needing extra days to confirm a negative COVID diagnosis post-exposure before we could celebrate in earnest, I finally got a chance to immerse myself back in Tackleford with our young sleuths. Or most of them anyway: Mildred and Sonny are off to France for the summer, while Shauna is going to Disneyl– er, Mouseville before heading to Margate to stay with family. This leaves only Linton, Jack and Charlotte in town when a series of mysterious occurrences start plaguing the Gravel Pit, a down-on-the-heels housing estate that Charlotte’s mom’s boyfriend, in particular, thinks unsafe for kids.
Charlotte isn’t super thrilled that Colin has moved in with them, but she is pleased that her older sister Sarah and Sarah’s dreamy boyfriend Dr Julian are moving back up to Tackleford. Her pleasure is short-lived, however, when fussy old Colin wants to implement a 7 p.m. curfew for her after Linton and Jack come round asking for her detecting help one evening. Linton’s dad was just promoted to police chief and is worrying over his new responsibilities in the face of rising crime. Being a good son, Linton wants to help his dad close a bunch of cases, including the weird goings-on by the Gravel Pit. But Colin thinks running about solving nocturnal mysteries is far too dangerous for thirteen year-olds, much to Charlotte’s ire. After all, foiling monstrous creatures of the night is complicated enough without also dodging worrywart father surrogates whom you never particularly liked in the first place.
Along for the ride is ambitious young reporter Erin Winters, whom Jack is developing a crush on, much to Linton’s disgust. Will this ragtag team of heroes be able to figure out who or what is behind all the mayhem, and more importantly stop it before it’s too late?
This was another really strong installment of the webcomic turned graphic novel, and I enjoyed reading every minute of it, including the hilarious excerpts of the memoir at the end. I actually did a double take when I first started reading this volume because the kids are growing up! They’re getting bigger and turning into little adults, and I’m all up in my feelings about it! Plot-wise, I loved the way John Allison wove the various narrative threads through into one excellent, consistently surprising whole. I think I also spent a little more time admiring the art here than in previous books. I’ve always loved his drawings, but I particularly appreciated how he plays with desaturation here for different scene effects, subtly evoking mood.
Gosh, I hope I won’t have to wait another year before finding the time to read the next book in the series! I even actually own it already, too. Funny story: the copy I have of this title was actually weeded from the Columbus Metropolitan Library because I was adamant on getting the original binding, which has since gone out of print, to properly match the first five books in my collection. Well worth the effort of tracking down, IMO.
The Case Of The Unwelcome Visitor by John Allison was published November 29 2016 by Oni Press and is available from all good booksellers, including