British takes on American noir can be suspicious: one only has to go to Kenneth Branagh’s main protagonist in the movie Dead Again (and the perpetually wrinkled suit wearing laconic protagonist who was an amalgam of everyman in the USA) to get an idea of how it can be too stylized. So, too, do the characters feel hyperreal in Grand Passion; hedonistic, narrow minded, universally entitled and selfish – it’s not a very likable lot of anti-heroes and certainly they aren’t meant to be lovable. But despite the detractions, this title is worth the read in its modern homage to pulp 1950s crime fiction/serials.
Plot: Mabel and Steve are thieves traveling across the country knocking off banks. Mac is a cop new to a small town and feeling very unwelcome, especially after the death of his wife to cancer. The cop and the crook meet in a shoot out – across the street from each other as their partners – Steve and a local cop – are killed by Mac and Mabel respectively. Mac and Mabel fall instantly in love despite their Romeo and Juliet storyline – but Mabel has a code to follow that requires her to find and then kill Mac for his part in the death of Steve. Unbeknownst to the couple, things are not what they appear in that small town – there’s a bigger set of thieves in town who have to take out Mac before he figures out their scheme.
The story is told by an unknown third person in a very ‘hick America small town’ type of voice. It does give the story flavor and it is consistent throughout the book. It is also a much needed conceit since our two protagonists are so unlikable. Mabel is uptight, intractable. Mac is slow, disaffected, and unemotional. Most of the personality in the story comes from the narration.
The illustrations work well and tell the story perfectly. The book also comes with a large selection in the back of storyboarding and layouts as well as notes from the author to the illustrator. This is a very adult and nicely modern noir piece that, although not treading any new ground plot-wise, was an enjoyable read. We don’t see enough titles like this currently and I appreciated this title all the more reason for that lack. Moody and atmospheric, Grand Passion was enjoyable. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.