Britten and Brülightly is a graphic novel by Hannah Berry and published by Metropolitan books and priced at $20 U.S. edition. This is Ms. Berry’s first graphic novel about a private investigator who learns that a few secrets are sometimes best left buried.
Berry’s debut graphic novel has been generously praised by UK publications like The Guardian saying that “…Hannah Berry conjures up exactly the right noir atmosphere.” That quote is about as accurate as it gets and I like noir. But what struck my eye about this graphic novel was the cover and I like a good murder mystery and this one delivers.
Fernández Britten is a private investigator who aims at “serving humanity and righting wrongs.” After ten years, he is weary of the clientele who seek his services: jealous lovers and vengeful people looking for dirt. To his way of thinking, more than half already suspect the outcome and for his efforts, he’s earned the nickname of “heartbreaker” because he rarely gives good news.
Britten’s partner, Stewart Brülightly, recommends that they start being a bit more “discriminating” and for once he gets a case that proves to be a lot of legwork with research that makes him reexamine his role in righting the wrong’s of humanity.
Charlotte Naughton, the daughter of a publisher, asks Britten to investigate the death of her fiancé, Bertie Kudos, who she suspects was murdered even though his demise was officially ruled a suicide.
Britten along with his “unconventional partner” Brülightly delve into the explosive secrets of a family’s past and what he finds out is that it’s a tangled mess that involves loss, betrayal, blackmail and murder.
The story seems to be set in London and has a strong noir feel to it that immediately draws the reader right into the story. The author uses muted colors along with black and white to draw her characters and setting in sharp relief. Some scenes really strike out at you. The narration is in cursive which at times proved difficult to decipher. I also found Britten’s partner, a bit of an enigma because he’s a teabag.
The story is suffused with black humor and is at times emotionally taut. I waited on the edge of my seat for the denouement. The ending wasn’t hinting at a sequel but there could easily be one. But the story arc was essentially resolved by the time the last page was turned. I enjoyed the story for what it was and wouldn’t mind revisiting Britten and his partner to see what case of moral ambiguity they entangle themselves up in next. B.
For readers interested in this book, you can see sample chapters of Britten and Brülightly at the publisher’s website.