Review by Frank Plowright
When an old woman dies during a heatwave her landlord wastes little time disposing of her possessions to a junk dealer while her son is in jail. Among the effects is a reliquary with a historical significance, proving the succession to the head of a powerful, ancient and influential secret society. This doesn’t sit well with the heir apparent, a man with three alluring sociopathic assassins at his command.
What follows is riotous chase through Paris searching for clues, coupled with the newly discovered heir accessing memories not his own about the historical circumstances of his position. The plot nods towards the actual French heatwave of 2003 and its disastrous toll on the elderly, the exploits of Blake and Mortimer, and encompasses Dan Brown style fictionalisation of conspiracy theories.
Philippe Riche has a curious attitude toward his primary cast. Despite being fond enough of them to continue their use from his debut project Bad Break, the junk dealer, Simon, isn’t actually named in this book, although Riche compensates by christening the more informed Ernst-Lazare.
Riche’s ligne claire art has evolved from the jagged and unglamourous style employed in Bad Break, and rounding off the rough edges without losing individuality suits the progression to coloured art. This is a far more polished affair than Bad Break. While the whimsical interludes remain, they serve the story rather than sidetrack it, providing a more compact read. Violent, sexy and funny, the finer points of the plot don’t withstand great scrutiny, but the whole follows the action movie template for a diverting read.