GrandevilleNoelImage © Bryan Talbot.

The Fourth Inspector LeBrock graphic novel is finally in my hands, and I can report it’s just as terrific as the others. This time the story deals in part with the lowest social class in this alternate version of Paris, people like us, who the many intelligent animal-headed species call “doughfaces.” It’s a nice turnabout that allows Talbot to make effective social commentary, and when he teams up with a doughface from America, also a detective, it leads to some funny moments. They’re both after a shady religious cult and it’s leader, a very rare unicorn, as seen on the cover, who has unusual powers of persuasion and is planning to use them to bring about a change of government, and a purge of doughfaces. LeBrock has a personal assignment to rescue a follower of Apollo, the cult leader, but soon finds himself drawn into a larger mission, and with help from his lady love and the American Chance Lucas, hatches a plan to infiltrate the cult and capture its leader.

There are plenty of other complications along the way, and the entire story plays out against a brilliantly thought-out society and world like our own in some ways, but with elements of steam-punk, Victoriana and just a touch of magic. It’s a wonderful combination, and the characters and plot are both top-notch. There’s a little Christmas in the opening and closing of the tale, but mostly it’s a mix of science fiction, fantasy, mystery and thriller that will keep you engaged.

Highly recommended.

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