You Have Killed Me

Jamie S. Rich (Love the Way You Love) and Joelle Jones (Token) team up again for an old-fashioned private eye yarn. It’s something of a change of pace, since their previous book together was the romance 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, one of my best books of 2006.

You Have Killed Me cover
You Have Killed Me
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A woman from Tony’s past has just come back into his life. Her sister, his ex-fiancee, is missing, and she needs the detective’s help, in spite of whatever hard feelings he might still have. The sister disappeared, a few days before her wedding, from a bathroom with only one entrance and a witness watching the door in a locked-room mystery.

It’s very difficult to do this kind of project well. The genre, a film noir-style hard-boiled detective story, is so well-known that most people think of parodies before they think of classic originals. It’s easy to succumb to “nudge nudge” “this is just like that better story” smarmy wisecracking or too-faithful slavishness. The former, by making fun based in immaturity, makes you feel like an idiot for wanting something with honest inspiration; the latter makes you ask “what’s the point? I’ll get one of the originals.” This story avoids both those traps.

By contrasting Tony’s background — he came from the same privileged society world that his clients do — with his choice to strike out on his own, Rich gives him sympathy (who hasn’t dreamed of crossing over to how the other half live?) and mystery of his own. The woman who hires him says she wants the benefit of how well he knows the missing sister, but when he does give advice based on her character, she ignores it, offering more money to get what she wants.

Jones’ graceful-yet-strong lines are well-suited for the curvy femme fatale, but then I could say the same thing about the genre and her strong use of black and shadow. Her curling smoke drifts I can get lost in, and I adored the page of the detective smoking in the bathtub. She does impressively detailed work with settings and backgrounds, suitable to the period. The dialogue is snappy, conveying plenty of information in just the right tone.

Comic Noir

The theme of roast almonds is spooky, giving me shivers from the beginning. It’s not spelled out, but the mystery fan will know from the start it’s the scent of poison, providing overtones of coming death. It’s also unusual for a comic to consider the sense of smell, which sets the story apart.

Note that because this is a noir, it’s about someone who’s never going to come out on top, even though you may wish otherwise for him. No one comes off well by the end, really. Tony wanders through a world of bars and seedy losers and the track and conflicts with the law and jazz musicians, all motivated by money, narrating as he goes. He’s the last honest man, asking questions and annoying people until the truth eventually comes out, several beatings later. It’s not that he has great observation or detective skills; he’s just more persistent, even in the face of his own pain (both physical and mental).

It’s The Thin Man without the liquor-fueled humor, The Big Sleep with an understandable plot. You Have Killed Me is due out July 15. Read a lengthy online preview. For the month of June, original art pages are on display at The Art Institute of Portland Gallery. (An online preview copy was provided by the publisher.)

10 Responses to “You Have Killed Me”

  1. charles yoakum Says:

    Oddly enough, my webcomic is serious nior as well, and we’re all on the cusp of Darywn Cooke adapting the Parker books, so nior is back in its own little way. Please come over take a look at my little black and white thriller, since there is no print version for me to send over to you.

    best –


  2. Hsifeng Says:

    Johanna Says:

    “…It’s not spelled out, but the mystery fan will know from the start it’s the scent of poison, providing overtones of coming death…”

    It has that connotation too? The smell-of-almonds connotation that first came to my mind was the plastique in World War II history books (basically, the more it smelled like almonds the less explosive it was so the French Resistance et al. wanted to get the less-smelly stuff).

  3. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » June 5, 2009: Nickogeddon Says:

    […] [Review] You Have Killed Me Link: Johanna Draper Carlson […]

  4. Johanna Says:

    Almond scent, specifically bitter almonds, is related to cyanide poisoning. I had no idea about the plastique. And now I’m wondering if any perfumes really do have prominent almond scents, as they do in the book. It makes me think more of extract during cooking.

    Charles, that’s some nice art, although it’s tough to judge the story and writing with only five pages. That’s the problem with web publishing a story like this — I prefer reading mysteries in much greater chunks so I can keep up with it all.

  5. charles yoakum Says:

    thanks johanna, i know that some people much prefer to be able to read the damn thing from front to back, so i’ll drop you a line when its completed. Thanks for taking the time to click over!


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    […] to be similar to Nancy Drew mixed with Tintin. Jones and Rich previously worked together on You Have Killed Me, 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, and his most recent comic project, Spell Checkers. I have previously […]

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