Writer: Scott Beatty
Artists: Butch Guice(p), Mike Perkins(i), Laura DePuy Martin(c)
Easily the best of the pure Scott Beatty Ruse mysteries, the writer concentrates on what attracted the readership in the first place: intrigue. Simon and Emma investigate a non-Lightbourne related mystery--although ties are given to a previous villain encountered by the duo. Faithful readers will no doubt breathe a sigh of relief that everything has reverted back to the exciting normal.
Though a seaside story, the tale is far from soggy. The implausible answers to the situation are quickly cleaved to leave the improbable which of course "must be the truth." The simplicity of the criminal method fits the characterization of the clever but not masterful villains of the piece. These are not however harmless rapscallions. Their deeds lead to murder, which naturally concerns Simon and Emma and requires their interference.
Amidst the unusual setting, Mr. Beatty also distinguishes the world in which Simon and Emma operate from our own. Certain aspects reflect the nature of our own reality, but historical differences abound. Christianity for instance never took hold of this world's rife imagination. The druid religion that gives Emma the root of her disguise knits much better in an environment where little gargoyles habitually fly around like our own pigeons.
One thing that hasn't changed is the banter between Emma and Simon: unfortunately but necessarily brief though not absent as it was in the Lightbourne caper. The dialogue catches their shared history and their individual personalities. Toward the end I thought I detected a newfound fondness in Simon's voice toward his companion. He at least sounds sympathetic as he places her in a dicey situation.
The winning combination of the art team can be felt right from page one. Laura Martin evokes a fall day with red and gold leaves as Emma takes a horse-drawn carriage across an understated bridge constructed by Butch Guice and Mike Perkins. While typically dark in atmosphere and natural light, the seaside residences still reveal detail, depth and color which enhance the experience. Later in the book, a fog falls and enshrouds the setting to emphasize the eerie mood, and in the darkness, secrets are revealed and comedy as well as drama dances across the stage.
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