In my mind, there are three kinds of mystery readers. There are some who pick up clues and try to put them together before the answer presents itself. There are a few who can see the solution coming from the first few chapters. And then there are people like me, who’d rather just let the story unfold at its own pace and let someone else do the brain work—that is, if I didn’t have this gig. As a reviewer, I sort of feel you’d be getting gipped if all got was, “I have no idea what just happened, what’s happening, or what’s about to happen, and I don’t care.”

Issues like this one do make that kind of assessment tempting, though. Even after several readings, I have nothing very insightful to say because I’m still not sure what I just saw—in a good way. A truly great mystery needs to have at least one mind-blowing twist, one that’ll upset every painstakingly crafted theory you have, and dang, if this issue doesn’t deliver. But this isn’t one of those twists where, with one flick of the wrist, things get shaken up then fall neatly into place. This twist scatters all the pieces of the story to the ground, leaving you to reassemble them again.
[Major spoiler alert!] I mean, there you are, coasting contentedly along with each respective investigation, negotiating the more ordinary bumps in the road: videotape footage from the morgue where Shahara sees a body storage tray roll itself open and close, Edmond entering the inner sanctum of the Order of Mithras, the parade of the unhinged that pass Maplewood by in the street. Then suddenly, you’re thrown completely off course by the massive pothole that is the Longharvest body suddenly and inexplicably coming alive and confessing to his own murder. How the heck are you supposed to make head or tail of any of this?

The best I can do is point out that despite Shahara, Edmond, and Maplewood being treated with admissions from their respective bodies, Charles gets no such luck. But then, Charles has proven to be a bit of the odd man out among his fellow investigators. In contrast to the others, who are all relatively self-righteous (Shahara’s tinged with ambition, Maplewood’s with a possibly less than righteous past), Charles is corrupt, even evil in some ways (see #3). Since he’s the only one not seriously looking into the Longharvest body of his era, it’s proper to give him something else to worry about, like, say, an undetonated German bomb beneath his transport.

Since we’re only at the halfway point of this series, it’s okay for things to feel a little unsettled again, although Spencer will have to start pulling things together soon. Mostly, you’d like to see how each investigator’s work ties in to the others, not just for our narrative benefit, but for their peace of mind. It wouldn’t do for all of them—well, except maybe Charles—to put in the effort and only one to be rewarded with a solution. Maplewood and Edmond have already made contact, and more time-crossing may be in the works; during the cavalcade, Maplewood encounters a woman in a hijab (suggesting Shahara), who tells her, “We met before we were both born. Remember?”

Hetrick’s rounded faces and big eyes have a rather cutesy effect on the art, which can sometimes disguise how competent a storyteller she is. To tell the truth, you never actually see who confesses to the Longharvest murder in 2014, but the shock of the police station receptionist, paired with a flyer for the victim in the background, gives you the answer. By far, Ornston carries the title’s emotional weight; his coverage of Edmond’s travails lends itself to that, of course, but it’s the internal struggle that plays out constantly on the inspector’s face that makes him the most sympathetic of the protagonists. By the same token, Lotay’s emotional glibness fits with a setting in which everyone is too brain-dead to be feeling much of anything anyway, and Winslade is restricted from showing much emotion during a period when all the characters, not just the sociopathic ones, must keep a stiff upper lip.

Some Musings:

– To save you some Wiki time, the Charles’ fellow copper’s reference to “Dunkirk” most likely means the Battle of Dunkirk, a costly evacuation of British and Allied forces from Europe during the early years of WWII.

Grade

B+

Conclusion

Much depends on how Spencer plays out the bomb he drops on us in this issue, but the explosion is nevertheless captivating.