Page 45 Review by Jonathan
"SUSPECT ONE: the grievin' young wife-to-be."
"Lottie, I don't think we should... she's in no state."
"Yeah WELL Shelley, she was gonna inherit ole Hugo's cash... AND she found the body AND messed up the crime scene."
"I want to be alone."
"Oh I jus' had a quick question. Were you marryin' Hugo Nance for his money? Only I saw that Harald with his hand parked down the back of your tights."
"Harald has REYNAULD'S! I was warming his fingers!"
"With your bum. Okay, wicked."
The prolific Mr. Allison returns with a story featuring children's writer Shelley E. Winters, famed for her stories about Tibkins the hedgehog (whose egg got a bit too hot before he hatched and so was born with chicken's legs) and her intern, 12-year-old Charlotte. Shelley's agent Barry wants to give her an early Christmas present so invites her to a writer's retreat at a beautiful lodge in the Welsh mountains, along with the other children's writers he represents. Shortly after arriving however, with Charlotte in tow, there's a murder! Hugo Nance, writer of the massively popular Donald The Sheep books is found dead in his room. The only problem is that just about everybody present, with the exception of Shelley and Charlotte, seems to have a motive for wanting to pop Hugo off. Fortunately for all concerned Charlotte is a tween sleuth on the quiet, and here's a little sample of her unique approach to investigation as all the guests are gathered round the body...
"HUGO NO NO NO NO NO!"
"Um, excuse me, if you can stop interferin' with the corpse for a minute... maybe the crime scene won't be COMPLETELY DESTROYED UP. Actually no, don't worry. Because based on the number of bloody footprints you lot have done in the room... EVIDENCE SUGGESTS HE WAS MURDERED BY RIVERDANCE!"
The character of Charlotte is just genius, with the complete lack of regard she shows at every turn to adult sensitivities. It's clever actually, because the opening few pages make you think Shelley is likely to be the detective and Charlotte her comedy side-kick, whereas Charlotte steals the show in pretty much every scene she's in as master detective and comedy genius, with Shelley in fact merely acting as her unwitting straight man.
I think this less surreal material is a great direction for John to go in at the moment actually in terms of building his fan base, and this could well be my favourite thing he's done yet. As ever the art is masterfully illustrated with a light cartoonish touch and no less exquisitely coloured. This would be an excellent starting point for those unfamiliar with John and his work. Highly recommended.