Truman Tucker, the protagonist of the new graphic novel from Norah McClintock and illustrator Steven P. Hughes, is in high school. With his parents out of town, he makes tentative plans to have his girlfriend, Natasha, over for dinner. When she doesn’t show up, Truman drinks himself to sleep, waking to a hangover and two police detectives on his doorstep. Natasha has been murdered, and Truman, lacking an alibi and acting suspicious, is the prime suspect. To clear his name, Truman starts to investigate Natasha’s death himself, tumbling into a netherworld of illegal immigrants, foreign mobsters, strip clubs, and an escalating body count, all while trying to stay one step ahead of the police, who are determined to see him in custody.
With Tru Detective, McClintock has crafted a solid, appealing mystery, especially for newcomers to the genre, who will be less familiar with the tropes and conventions the author skilfully mines in this admittedly somewhat too-tidy caper. While the mystery’s outcome isn’t obvious, the story moves in a very traditional manner. Readers will be caught up in Truman’s struggles, the perils he finds himself in, and the awareness he develops of both himself and others. Hughes’ black-and-white art builds on and supports the noir elements of McClintock’s storytelling with a stark, cinematic quality, leavened with occasional flashes of wit and sly humour.
Tru Detective benefits from an of-the-moment quality, not just in its larger strokes – the way characters talk and interact, and plot elements including human trafficking, forced sex work, and illegal immigration – but in its finer details, such as the omnipresence of cellphones and their role in the mystery. Though most of them will never experience the kind of drama the story presents, adolescent readers will feel right at home.