I think someone mentioned on Twitter that she had a new book out at the end of last year, so I eagerly ordered Cassandra Darke.
The title character is thoroughly unpleasant. She used to run an art gallery with her ex-husband, whom she feels wronged by, until her cheating and defrauding of her customers was found out.
It’s Christmas, she’s alone, and then things get strange. Her ex-husband married her stepsister, and their daughter has gotten herself mixed up in something unpleasant. Nicki previously stayed with Cassandra, and now Cassandra has found a gun hidden in the room she used. It belonged to someone who tried to drug Nicki during a hen night, and there’s another guy who knows him who hooks up with her.
Few of these pages are traditional comics. Most are a collection of related images with a paragraph or three of character monologue. That makes the occasional comic page, where we see characters talking to each other, the more immediate, as they foreground the interactions.
The story, though, is more than a bit muddled. There are some things to think about regarding privilege and money and how lives change in ways we don’t expect, but overall, I kept reading just to see what the next odd twist would be. The whole thing is less than the sum of its parts, particularly when it comes to the paper-thin characters. But I do enjoy Simmonds’ art. The contrast between her delicate linework, with its subtly faded coloring, and the brutality of some of the subject matter supports the themes.