A Treasury of Victorian Murder
by Rick Geary
(NBM, 2002)

"On the fourth floor landing lay the body of Nicholas Ryan, his throat brutally slashed." Thus begins the initial murder in A Treasury of Victorian Murder, the first of a five-issue series of true crime graphic novels from master cartoonist Rick Geary.

Treasury recounts three murders reported by newspapers in the 1800s, each written in unembellished, factual prose and illustrated by Geary's inimitable art. Novelist Robert Bloch believed the greatest horror was in not knowing whether one was sitting next to a killer, and Geary has captured this feeling of paranoia perfectly.

He captures without a word of dialogue, each narrative like a silent movie without popcorn.

In part, Geary does so by what is missing in his missive. A reader never knows the motive for each murder. Indeed, the reader joins those average folk who lived it as they catch buses, shop, eat and work, oblivious to the viper in their woodshed.

"There," writes Geary, "they were steady, well-behaved workers, attracting little notice or concern." "They" were shoemakers, doctors, wives, brothers and sisters, and they remained unnoticed until each was found slaughtered.

Geary also does it by his meticulous artist's eye for detail in everything from genteel architecture, clothing and hairstyles to furnishings. His simple, bold lines also capture a sideways glance, a subtle sneer or a door ajar to fuel a reader's moribund anticipation. In addition, his murders are never gory. Geary understands that horror is best left to imagination.

Treasury, along with its sister volumes Jack the Ripper, The Borden Tragedy, The Fatal Bullet and The Mystery of Mary Rogers, is highly recommended.

[ by Michael Vance ]
Rambles: 26 October 2002

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