The Case Of The Missing Piece (Bad Machinery #9) by John Allison

(this review was originally written before the turn of the year, so apologies for some end of 2023 recap misery near the bottom there.)

As is tradition, I took some time out of my day this past Christmas to sit down and read another installment of my beloved Bad Machinery series by John Allison. I’m a little sad to be so close to the end of these graphic novels, tho must admit that this book is likely my least favorite of the bunch to date. There are precious few traditional mysteries here and only the slightest hint of the supernatural in what’s mostly a coming-of-age tale, as our beloved Tackleford Mystery Club members inevitably grow up and grow apart.

It all begins when Shauna’s mum Ella decides to get married to her long-term boyfriend Dan. Even more excitingly, Dan wants to formally adopt Shauna, which thrills them all to bits. Trouble is, Shauna’s older half-brother Darren is set to get out of prison in time for the wedding. Shauna has a lot of unresolved feelings regarding Darren, and worries how his return will affect her family’s happy dynamic.

On top of this, her best friends Charlotte (my beloved) and Mildred decide that they’re going to help Shauna find and meet her biological father. Will meeting him help her figure out what’s always felt like the missing piece of her life? And how will her own upbringing in poverty avail her when she decides to undertake as well the rehabilitation of the increasingly antisocial Blossom Cooper?

Shauna has been given short shrift in the more recent books, so it’s nice to see Mr Allison delve into her background for this penultimate collection. It actually hurt me when she and Charlotte had their falling out. While I understand both girls’ positions, I grieved when Charlotte gave Shauna the ultimatum. Ultimatums never work out, a lesson these teenagers had yet to learn.

I also liked how Linton got to focus on his personal life, as well as the callback to The Case Of The Simple Soul. Mr Allison’s art felt even more assured than usual in this book, especially when Shauna was tying her hair back to go rescue Blossom. It was trenchant, wordless commentary on the class issues at play here, as well as on Shauna’s continuing maturity.

I’m honestly kinda scared to go into the final volume now. I just couldn’t stand it if they’re not all friends again by the end of this series, I love them all so much. I’ll have to eventually gird my loins and finish the set, especially since this book, while not exactly finishing on a cliffhanger, makes it very clear that I’ll have to read more in order to gain satisfaction. It’s just that, in a year full of heartbreak, I couldn’t stand one more.

The Case Of The Missing Piece (Bad Machinery #9) by John Allison was published January 14 2020 by Oni Press and is available from all good booksellers, including Simon & Schuster.

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