A Feminist detective story set in the chills and thrills of North London. One that nods to Chandler, Mike Leigh and even a dash of Bridget Jones. It might not seem like a winning combination but MAGGY GARRISON seems to just to get it right. Well it wasn’t a hard case to solve. Was it.
Maggy Garrison needs a job. She has not worked in two years but that is about to change. Anthony Wight has an opening in his detective agency for a secretary. The thing is Wight is a drunk and the agency cant even solve a simple missing pet. So when a case of stolen money, corrupt cops and Brighton Pier falls into their lap, Maggy might be the only person who can solve it.
Good detective stories make the reader think. Great detective stories make the reader work as hard as the detective. MAGGY GARRISSON rightly lays between these poles and for the most part this is a strength. Why does it do this? Well because it is not solely a detective story. It is something much more. It is a mix of social commentary, detective drama and genre piece. These three might not sit well often but thanks to a committed use of the real it makes it work. From locations (London obviously but also Brighton), to the emotional layering of personal and professional (case and life so to speak) and that lovely use of internal / external narrative, it all marries well. Lewis Trondheim has form in blending a genre narrative with social commentary. POPPIES OF IRAQ is an obvious example of this. However what raises MAGGY above the staid or sensational of much work in this field, is that it avoids the big issues (sexual exploitation, drugs, paedophilia etc). Its not all good because I felt that Trondheim avoids head on conflicts and as such MAGGY has a flabby story, a very unrealistic love story and a strange habit of meandering. Stephane Oiry deserves more credit however. The art is stunningly detailed, coloured with tones that add drama and of course is set in reality! I am interested in the next book, seeing where it goes and what Maggy’s journey is. After all the work put in, its worth finding the route out.