REVIEW: Alan Nolan's Death By Chocolate

Story by: Alan Nolan
Art by: Alan Nolan
Cover by: Alan Nolan
Publisher: O’Brien Press
Cover Price: €7.99
Book Summery: Marcel Petit-Pois the famous, but bumbling Swiss detective, and his sidekick Tesla, the second cleverest chimp in Europe, are on a case. The mysterious Chocolatier has committed a series of confectionery-related killings. In a rollercoaster adventure, Petit-Pois teams up with old friends, follows clues, uncovers gruesome murders and eventually finds out that although he believes himself to be an investigative genius, he’s actually second banana to a chimp.
Sancho’s Alan Nolan returns to the shelves in this first graphic novel of a series from O’Brien Press. This one following famed private investigator Marcel Petit-Pois and his companion, the second smartest chimp in Europe, Tesla. The book marks a return also for O’Brien Press to the graphic novel medium after successfully testing the waters with the hugely popular Blood Upon The Rose by Gerry Hunt a couple of years ago.
Marcel Petit-Pois is a veteran investigator of over 1,000 cases. He is revered in many circles for his cunning. He takes all the credit for his companion chimp Tesla solving most of the crimes. And he is on a diet.
This is the man tasked with solving a murder that has not taken place yet as he is invited to a bar where a murder is going to take place. From here the detective meanders from one situation with his chimp and childhood friend, opera singer Minna to the next attempting to identify the villain of the piece, the Chocolatier. Taking place from locations as diverse as Dublin, Berlin, Morocco to Norway, this great fun story is a joy to behold.
The core audience is obviously aimed at children and while the villain is easily identified by the older reader long before he is unmasked, the kids will lap this up in spades. The narrative is littered with witty remarks and Tesla, the long suffering chimp, actually steals the spotlight from Petit-Pois and becomes the star of the book. There are some similarities personality-wise to Inspector Clouseau with Petit-Pois but it doesn’t detract in any way at all from the enjoyment you garner from the story.
It is nice to see some published art by Nolan as I was a fan of his work going back to early days of Sancho. Nolan is a good storyteller. The kids might miss some of the hints hidden in panels that tease the identity of the villain but Nolan’s art tells a story all in itself and works lovely in tandem with the narrative. It seems that the choice of Nolan as storyteller was a good call on behalf of O’Brien Press.
One major thing I must point out is the audience this is aimed at. A long standing complaint of modern day comics is that they are aimed at an older and aging audience but what O’Brien Press and Nolan have proved here beyond any doubt is that a book can cater to not only both audiences without speaking down to one or the other but you can thrive while doing so. Perhaps some of the bigger companies should look at this book and see what is possible.
The next book in the ‘A Murder Can Be Fatal Series’ is Six Million Days To Die which goes on sale next month, also by Nolan. And after being served up a beauty of a book in Death By Chocolate I can’t wait. Alan Nolan has set himself a high bar to live up to.