CM . . .
. Volume XXI Number 26. . . .March 13, 2015
Norah McClintock. Illustrated by Steven P. Hughes.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2015.
116 pp., trade pbk., pdf & epub, $19.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-0379-4 9 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0380-0 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-0381-7 (epub).
Grades 8-11 / Ages 13-16.
Review by Karen Boyd.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
“The cops were here. They asked a lot of questions. They wanted to look around.”
“You didn’t let them, did you?”
“No, I was hoping you could find out what’s going on.”
“I’ll make some calls.”
Seventeen-year-old Truman (Tru) is angry when he is stood up by his girlfriend, but not angry enough to kill her. When the police arrive at the door the next day, he learns that Natalia didn’t come for dinner because she had been murdered in a back alley. Tru is the primary suspect, and, in order to clear his name and get justice for Natalia, he searches for the real murderer. Instead of getting himself out of trouble, his detective work gets him caught up with Russian mobsters, human trafficking, and bad cops. Truman’s quick thinking eventually helps to bring those responsible to justice.
Tru Detective, McClintock’s newest graphic novel, illustrated by Steven P. Hughes, takes on several dark and complex issues. Not only is Truman negotiating the legal system as a suspect, but he is also delving into the dark world of human trafficking. McClintock attempts to make these issues accessible with limited text and lengthy wordless sequences that describe interactions between the characters. However, in this format, at some points it becomes difficult to follow the action and to discriminate between the characters. The story moves very quickly, and it is often necessary to reread and check previous information in order to follow the connections.
There were some parts of Tru Detective that were so implausible that it impacted the way that the story is read. Truman’s parents are away, and his “butler” also leaves to go to Las Vegas with his girlfriend. Even though Truman is repeatedly interrogated by the police and is able to secure a high-powered lawyer, at no point are his parents contacted. The series of coincidences that occur throughout the novel are overly convenient. For example, Truman’s best friend Sticky’s aunt happens to have dated a professor who can speak Russian and is able to translate an important note. The same aunt randomly uses a piece of Russian slang that connects Truman to a crucial piece of information. Similarly implausible is the lack of confidentiality of the adults in the novel: Sticky’s sister, who is a novice lawyer, shares far too much information; the clerk in the school provides confidential registration documents; and the principal allows Truman to search through Natalia’s personal effects. Interestingly, none of this information has drawn the attention of the police. The ending of the novel suggests conclusion as the Russian mobsters and the corrupt police officer are taken into custody. It is still unclear what happened the night that Natalia was murdered.
Tru Detective is a quick and accessible read, but, in order to be this accessible, McClintock has had to make several compromises in the storyline. Some readers may be drawn to the graphic novel format but find that they miss some of the key details of the story.
Recommended with Reservations.
Karen Boyd is an English Language Arts and Literacy consultant with Manitoba Education and Advanced Learning.
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