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by Rick Geary
NBM Publishing, June 2015
80 pages
ISBN: 1561639524

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Louise Brooks was a rising star during Hollywood's silent film era until she decamped to Europe to make a series of risqué avant-garde films, after which she was considered damaged goods and was essentially black-listed from Hollywood productions. By 1931, she was unemployed and broke with little choice but to swallow her pride and move back to her hometown, Wichita, Kansas. Ms. Brooks' shooting star style career trajectory is one that clearly fascinates author Rick Geary, and provides a departure point for this fun, if slight, graphic novel.

Louise Brooks returns to Wichita and makes a best friend in department store clerk, Helen. Helen is as prim and old fashioned as Louise is adventurous and worldly. When Louise decides to try to hunt down a reclusive famous author she admires in order the escape the Wichita boredom, she crosses paths with Helen and Charles as they embark on a romantic picnic that Helen is hoping will come with a marriage proposal. When they pick up a hitchhiker, things turn deadly. Louise must sort out the truth of what occurred involving her friend, the writer, and Helen's possibly dodgy boyfriend.

Coming in at a mere eighty pages, this graphic novella is a brisk, light read. But that does not mean that it's not a supremely entertaining read, because it certainly is. The black and white minimal drawing style may limit the appeal of the book, but it does capture the style of the early 1930s and Louise, who is forgotten by all but the most ardent silent film aficionados, becomes a full-fledged character whom we like and care about.

The mystery that drives the plot of LOUISE BROOKS: DETECTIVE is passable enough, but ultimately a bit pedestrian; the twists and turns are not particularly surprising, but Louise, not the mystery, is intended to be the star here. As noted in his introduction, Geary has had a long fascination with the too brief career of Louise Brooks and has re-imagined her life after she returned to Kansas. Geary's obvious affection for Louise and the charm of the art work more than make up for whatever shortcomings the narrative may have.

§ Ben Neal is a librarian who likes to fancy himself an amateur writer, humorist, detective, and coffee connoisseur in his spare time. He can be reached at beneneal@indiana.edu.

Reviewed by Ben Neal, October 2015

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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