Friday, May 09, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #128: Liar's Kiss by Skillman and Soriano

I am incredibly tempted to write this post in a gin-soaked, neon-lit parody of a Chandleresque PI voice, all "dames" and "buttons" and guns that speak and floridly unlikely metaphors, to best fit this noirish, classic detective story. However, that would not just be self-indulgent -- which I usually revel in -- but would also be both lame and dull, so I'm going to avoid it. (If you want to thank me, make your next Amazon purchase using my links.)

Liar's Kiss is a PI story, told as an appropriately black-and-white graphic novel by writer Eric Skillman (best known before this 2011 book as a graphic designer) and artist Jhomar Soriano (mostly appearing in manga-themed publications before this), set in a mostly backgrounded NYC, sometime that's basically now. But it's a PI story of lies and deceit and double-crosses, of cops that rough guys up and private dicks that have to take it, of gold-digging younger wives and their old husbands, of shabby offices and the tart-tongued secretary found there -- so it could easily have been set in the '70s, or '50s, or '30s, or '90s.

Nick Archer has been hired by the millionaire Johnny Kincaid to keep an eye on his younger wife, Abbey. We don't know if she was or is having other affairs, but we know from the first few pages that she's screwing the detective, so her husband's instincts are either spot-on or horribly wrong. The story gets twisty from there, but let's say that there's a murder, and a hunt for the killer, and Abbey sitting looking very plausible as that killer -- though we readers know she couldn't have done it.

Kincaid was not a nice man -- millionaires in PI novels rarely are, unless they're very old and crippled, sitting in their orchid hothouses -- and his past bubbles back up, with the disgraced and just out of prison ex-curator of his art gallery turns out to be nosing around, too. And there are the tough dames, of course: not just Abbey, but also Jane Wilcox, head of Kincaid's foundation and holder of her own secrets. Archer's secretary, Trixie, thankfully, is more least as far as we see.

Skillman piles twist on twist, each one -- except, possibly, the final, real explanation for it all -- following logically and neatly from the ones before it. And, despite his background, there's nothing manga about Soriano's inky pages: he uses big black spots very effectively, and his people are pretty good, too, with many panels hinging on facial expressions. Liar's Kiss is a fine slab of noir: a dark tale of murder and illicit love and corruption and a whole lot of money, with a damaged, wisecracking detective at its center.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

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