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Lady S: Here's to Suzie!

Posted: Wednesday, December 3, 2008
By: Penny Kenny

Jean Van Hamme
Philippe Aymond
Cinebook
By all appearances, Suzan Fitzroy leads a charmed life. The adopted daughter of roving ambassador James Fitzroy, she assists her father in smoothing ruffled diplomatic feathers and pouring oil on troubled international waters. But appearances can be deceiving. Suzan has a secret past that could lose her father his position if it were revealed.

Blackmailed by the mysterious “Orion” into stealing a file from the Turkish Embassy in Brussels, Suzan finds herself caught up in the high stakes game of international spying--where one mistake could cost her her life, or the life of her loved ones.

Jean Van Hamme, creator of Largo Winch, has created a character as equally compelling in Suzan Fitzroy. She’s intelligent, resourceful, brave, loyal, and not without a sense of humor. Like her sister in adventure Modesty Blaise, she’s just as capable when stripped down to her unmentionables as she is when fully clothed.

The plot of Here’s to Suzie is cleverly complicated--playing off of real-world events and history. These elements give the story an immediacy and authenticity that adds to the drama and reality of Suzan’s world. You feel as if the events in the novel are possible, if not probable. However, unlike the real world, all the loose ends are tied up at the end of the book’s eighty-eight pages.

Van Hamme tells a story with a beginning, middle, and end. The important plot points are explained and understandable. Readers know who did what and why.

A good portion of the book is devoted to flashbacks, establishing just who Suzan is and what her relationships are with the different characters. Van Hamme skillfully weaves these flashbacks into the storyline so that they also foreshadow future events or elaborate on past ones. They’re not just there for filler.

Illustrator Philippe Aymond ensures that readers know a flashback is occurring by giving the first and last panel of each memory sequence rounded corners. The coloring in these panels also features a different scheme that sets them off from the main storyline. Both visual clues are subtle but helpful.

The complicated story is told in a straightforward, head-on manner. Aymond avoids bird’s-eye and worm’s-eye angles. For the most part, he sticks with a level view--keeping it from being visually static by moving in and out of the action. He stays with the grid format, and though each page on average runs seven to eight panels, there’s no sense of crowding. Each panel is heavily detailed and creates a strong sense of place. It’s the rare panel that doesn’t have some background in it.

The varied body types of the characters add to the story’s verisimilitude. The Turkish ambassador is different in appearance from the American CIA agent who looks different from the Russian thief. The women are attractive, but have figures that fall into the realm of possibility. No balloon-bosomed, wasp-waisted fantasy creatures here.

Aymond also does an excellent job of aging his characters. Suzan appears as a young girl, a teen, and a woman. Obviously her hairstyles and wardrobes change over the years, but you can still tell it’s the same person. James Fitzroy also adds grey and pounds over the years. These are small things, but again they establish the reality of the story’s world.

As Here’s to Suzie is a thriller, there is on-panel violence and bloodshed. However, Van Hamme prefers Suzan to outwit her opponents, and Aymond is restrained in his depictions of any violence that does occur.

Lady S is the perfect package for readers searching for an intelligent, stylish, contemporary thriller. I highly recommend searching it out.



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