Review by Frank Plowright
Things look to be turning up for Maggy Garrisson as we follow her through the damp North London streets about to start her first job in two years. However bright things might have looked, reality slaps her in the face on arriving to discover her new boss slumped over his desk sleeping off the last night’s drink. Perhaps being the assistant to a private detective isn’t going to be a dream job after all.
Lewis Trondehiem’s always been an admirably individual and quirky creator, and turning his attention to crime drama brings that out in the best way, with a succession of clever ideas and an engagingly eccentric protagonist. Contrary to the way most writers would lay out their leading character, we learn very little about Maggy other than present day events, but from her attitudes and responses we know she’s quick-witted, sardonic and has received a kicking from life at some stage. For all her lack of experience at being a private detective, she’s observant, a quick learner, and capable of getting where she needs to be, and finding the right people to do the jobs she can’t. This is whether those jobs are within the law, stretching the boundaries or way outside.
To begin with Stéphane Oiry’s artistic individuality takes some getting used to, but that happens within a few pages and by the end of the book you won’t be able to imagine anyone else depicting Maggy and her world. He provides a wealth of a detail in a scratchy style that completely delivers time and place, but in an odd manner, the cover showing the best and quirkiest of him. Anyone who knows Chamberlayne Road in Kensal Rise will recognise the viewpoint as a lovingly reconstructed composite, but with Maggy and the people around her seeming to float above the ground. Several locations recur, and you’ll come to know the inside of 12 Bar almost as well as Maggy,
Thankfully this collection covers all three Maggy Garrisson books as originally published in France between 2014 and 2017, and by the end of the second everything seems to have turned out nicely for Maggy. It leaves the third as a slight departure, less sinister, more eccentric British charm, but in bittersweet fashion, Maggy’s story is not finished. Having grown bored with him, Trondheim killed off his first long-running character (McConey), and knowing that escalates the tension of the third story almost unbearably. It’s not taken long to like Maggy, and embedding her in her surroundings provides a reassurance, while the way Trondheim suddenly switches hobby into desperate necessity is a lovely piece of plotting.
Is this brief glimpse into Maggy Garrisson’s life one of picking herself up and setting her right, or is it an unfolding tragedy? You’ll have to buy the book to find out, but it’s journey well worth taking.