New York seems custom-made for murder mysteries. Even its geography lends a hand. With the heavy influence of Dutch words and history felt throughout the city, you find lots of eerie-sounding names. Take, for example, “kills,” a Dutch word for creeks that plays into settings throughout the city (and even the state).
British writer Peter Milligan (a longtime comics veteran who came to the United States in the final wave of the British Invasion of comics at the end of the ‘80s) takes full advantage of that in The Bronx Kill, named after the waterway that separates the southern tip of the Bronx from Randall’s Island in the East River. Milligan has written a variety of styles throughout his storied career, which has involved some of comics’ most well-known characters. The noir stylings of The Bronx Kill fit him just as well as the bizarre antics he played to wild effect in X-Statix.
Martin Keane’s father, grandfather, and great-grandfather were all New York City cops, but Martin has no calling to the profession. He’s a writer, and asThe Bronx Kill opens he’s struggling with bad reviews over his second novel. His supportive wife, Erin, is no longer his biggest fan, although she’s trying to help her husband see beyond the bad reviews and focus instead on the next book—the research of which will take Martin to Ireland for several months of research. In addition, a mystery plagues the Keane family: Martin’s great-grandfather was murdered on the Bronx Kill some 50 years ago, and the crime was never solved.
Martin’s return from his trip to Ireland is uneventful, and things seem as normal as always: Things are going well between him and his wife, and Martin and his father are still at loggerheads over, well, everything. But then Erin goes missing in the middle of the night, disappearing without a trace from their tiny apartment. The only suspect in the case is Martin, and even his dad can’t keep the cops from raking Martin over the coals.
The mystery deepens when Martin spies a woman who looks eerily similar to his missing wife. With publicity growing over the case and the police convinced that he is guilty, Martin is forced to take the investigation into his own hands—starting with the mystery woman, who will force him to uncover long-hidden secrets about his family. The dark tale takes an even darker twist here.
Throughout the book, Milligan scatters the prose text of Martin’s next book, complete with editing marks. The new book itself has odd connections to the family drama unfolding in Martin’s life, a nice trick perfectly executed here by Milligan.
The Bronx Kill is another fine example of how well Vertigo’s new noir initiative is working.
Reviewed by John Hogan on May 1, 2011
The Bronx Kill