Review by Karl Verhoven
Jerome K. Jerome Bloche – don’t ask about the name – lives in Paris and wants to be a detective. He’s read all the right books, done his correspondence course, and branded himself as an agency, but despite the adventure in The Shadow Killer, no-one’s yet contacted him about taking on any detective work. That’s about to change in what’s a clever script parodying classic Agatha Christie style detective stories, but which definitely leaves its own imprint on the genre.
Bloche receives a letter from the Baron de Verville, who writes that he’s in danger and encloses what he considers a small cheque to cover Bloche’s expenses to travel to his chateau in La Rochelle, a small port on the French Atlantic coast. “Small cheque?!” exclaims Jerome, “My goodness! With this I can pay off half my debts!” Yes, the exclamation mark may be in danger of extinction elsewhere, but is alive and well here. Writers Serge Le Tendre and Pierre Makyo take us on a gloriously unpredictable comedy adventure ride that tops The Shadow Killer by some distance. Not least by mystifying with the title until two-thirds of the way through. Whatever you think it might indicate, you’re probably wrong.
Bloche is a kind hearted and likeable guy, sometimes not appearing to be the smartest, but willing to keep an open mind, yet nothing he discovers in the Baron’s residence makes much sense. The Baron is nowhere to be seen, his housekeeper compulsively locks doors, his butler is incredibly clumsy and the Baron’s son and daughter are strangely unconcerned about anything. It’s as if he’s joined the cast of Cluedo. Maybe he’d be better off trying to figure out who keeps stealing strawberry tarts from the bakery instead.
Everything is anchored by Alain Dodier’s superb art. He’s strong on visual characterisation and sets the right tone for the series by his cartooning playing funny moments without exaggerating them too much. The characters that are meant to look appealing charm the socks off, and those who’re meant to be suspicious have something odd about them without giving the game away.
The pastiche tone extends to a running joke about a crime novelist who always ends his novels with the same sentence, and there’s a superb ending, echoing noir fiction where the detective solves the case, but still ends up disappointed. As with so much in The Paper People, it’s a surprise, and not what might be expected. At times whimsy threatened to overwhelm Jerome K. Jerome Bloche’s first outing, but that was obviously just teething problems as this is one beguiling adventure. May there be many more to come.