Someone is killing artists, and it’s up to Detective Inspector Archibald “Archie” LeBrock of Scotland Yard to solve the case. Set in a non-descript time period in France, Bryan Talbot’s Grandville Bete Noire tells the tale of a deep conspiracy amongst the wealthy elite. It’s a little bit steampunk, a little bit detective, and a little bit “Wind in the Willows.”
But the story is all mystery. When LeBrock jumps on the case of an artist in Paris who was killed in a locked apartment with no way in or out, the intrigue begins. It’s a rather well-told noir crime drama, complete with a femme fatale, an evil crime boss, and tons of underlying social commentary. Talbot does a great job of laying out the characters, and since they are animals, they are easy to get to know.
Talbot’s art style is very much like something from Arnold Lobel’s “Frog and Toad” children’s books. It’s a simple, but effective style, not mired in a lot of heavy darkness, like many noir books might be. This book is colorful and whimsical in many places, and is incredibly easy to breeze through.
The world Talbot sets up is interesting, as it doesn’t include animals solely. There are sub-classes of humans, which play a part in how Talbot stratifies the classes. But, it also being steampunk, there are robots all over the place, giving the world an even more complicated tone.
If you are a fan of any of the genres described above, you should definitely pick this up. This is the third book in the Grandville series, but having not read the first two, this was very accessible. If you enjoy the Blacksad books, even though the art is much different, it’s worth a look. But like Blacksad, this book may look kid-friendly artistically, but the tone and scope of the story most certainly is not for kids. Still, this is a quality read and well worth the time.