Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes

Matt Kindt. First Second Books.
Matt Kindt. First Second Books.

There are some books I read more than once.  Mystery novels are usually not part of that group. I already know who “did” it, so what more to glean from the story? With Matt Kindt’s detective graphic novel Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes, there is much to re-examine, clues to understand, characters to figure out by reading again and again.

In general, I read graphic novels several times because I tend to literally “read” them- the words- first, just glancing at the pictures, and then read it a second time slowly, savoring the pictures, looking for nuances in the art to add depth to the story. Red Handed is dense in illustrated details, puzzle-pieces plot, and ethical conversations that bear reflecting.

I received a review copy from First Second books, and my 14 yr old son grabbed it off the shelf first. He didn’t get very far in. “It doesn’t make sense.” There’s a lot to hold in your head, meaning behind simplistic drawings, and really, this is an adult book (though older teens will enjoy it.)

At its most basic, this is a detective noir story. The town of Red Wheelbarrow has the best law enforcement mind: Detective Gould. “Ironically, the rate of murder hasn’t declined, but, with Detective Gould on the case the likelihood of a murder going unsolved is microscopic.” The book showcases a bunch of criminals that Gould arrests, but they are odd, small crimes. Gould knows something more is happening, but for the first time he can’t figure it out. The ultimate criminal mastermind is out to prove something, how to commit a murder but have no direct hand in it. Is that a crime?

Time jumps around, but the art clearly shows us where we are, the random criminals and their motivations, Detective Gould’s wife’s story, another character, Tess’ love life, and the ongoing conversation between two unseen people (there is only black and white text) discussing what is wrong and right.

In the end, all is illuminated, but certainly not resolved. Read it again.

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Rebecca Angel was one of those kids that put the dragon book on top of her pile in the hopes that someone would say, "Hey, I'm into that stuff too!" Alas, she had to wait until she was an adult to find fellow geeks. Luckily, she married one and their kids are too. A music teacher by day, Rebecca is also a lover of tea, science literacy, funky tights, RPGs, anime, manga, comics, fantasy books and movies.