Page 45 Review by Jonathan
"See you later, Mom!"
"Alex! Wait!! Where are you...? That's so strange! He does this every weekend now! He zips off, he's gone all day, and he comes back covered in dirt and mud!"
"Mine is just the same! And the little girl next door too."
"Hmm... I don't know what they're hiding from us... but it's all very strange!"
"I can't even begin to guess!"
Ah, that's typical Cici! Solving one mystery only to create another, in this case where all the local children keep disappearing off to every spare moment they have, much to the bemusement of their mildly concerned parents. I won't spoil the surprise by telling you, but it all came about from the ever-curious Cici spotting a strange old man in paint-spattered overalls carrying a parrot in a cage...
He was wandering through the woods near the treehouse which Cici and her two best friends Lena and Erica use as their secret clubhouse. As a writer-in-training, Cici fancies herself as a keen student of people, often profiling the locals and creating elaborate stories for them, so the pigment-coated pensioner promptly piqued her inquisitiveness sufficiently enough to begin a covert investigation into his goings-on. The results astonished her.
Unfortunately her propensity towards the secretive spills over into her relationship with her mum, often involving her two friends, who frequently find themselves covering for her whilst she's off investigating solo. It's not that she doesn't want her mum knowing what she's doing per se... she's just got into the bad habit of not telling her, or indeed telling her something else entirely... Understandably, her friends are getting a bit fed up of shoring up Cici's unnecessary fibs and it's putting a strain on their friendship. It also grates considerably on her mother that Cici seems to prefer elderly neighbour and published author Mrs. Flores as her confidante...
There's also a second case in this collection, featuring the widow Ronsin who takes out the exact same book from the local library week after week. All she has to remind her of her late husband Hector are his terse, dry letters from The Front talking about the daily, stark unending reality of war, collected in said book, entitled The Rose And The Mortar, about his troubling times in a secret communications battalion. Hector was so traumatised by what he encountered during the conflict that he came back completely mute, unable to vocalise his feelings for his wife until his death. Yet the widow remains convinced, by the light in his eyes and by his actions, that he still loved her truly and deeply. If only she had something more reflective of his true, caring personality to remember him by...
Enter Cici, fascinated by the widow's repetitive reading of the particular book in question! Before too long she's snooping around the library and once again telling fibs to her mum about her whereabouts and further alienating her friends. Even Mrs. Flores is starting to get fed up with Cici's little deceits. But can Cici discover an emotional treasure trove that's lain hidden for decades and manage to salvage her relationships with her friends and mum before it's too late?
Joris Chamblain completely enchanted me with this partly first-person perspective story-telling style, split between mostly pure comics and pages from Cici's personal journal which is filled with theories regarding her cases and her private thoughts about herself and her friends. Aurelie Neyret illustrates the comics pages in a gorgeously colourful, vibrantly vivid artistic style, very distinct to the journal pages which are chock full of doodles, photographs, crayon drawings and diary entries. It's a fabulous combination, though, that blends absolutely seamlessly together from a reader's perspective. There's even the occasional spot-panel of journal to highlight a certain critical clue or point in the middle of a comics page, which never feels remotely incongruous but only adds to the relentless feel of a young writer-in-training firmly on the sleuthing case! Highly recommended.