Monday, September 16, 2013

Advance Review: The Black Feather Falls by Ellen Lindner

The Black Feather Falls #1 by Ellen Lindner
Soaring Penguin Press/ACT-I-VATE, 2013
Ellen Lindner, NYC-based author of The Undertow and editor of The Strumpet anthology, will be releasing the first issue of her new 1920s murder mystery The Black Feather Falls next month to comic stores in the UK.

The comic opens, first-person, with American Tina Swift swigging from a flask in Cairo, reminiscing. We flash back to her time in postwar London working as a shopgirl in a nice part of town. She finds herself investigating the circumstances behind a mysterious death of a man found right outside her door. Part of her motivation is that the murdered man was one of the masses of war veterans forced to live homeless, unthanked, a death that the police aren't too keen on caring about. She goes to the offices of a newspaper editor, Mr. Pertwee, who seemed to promise her a job but flaked out on her. Pertwee is a no-show, but Pertwee's secretary, Ms. McInteer takes an interest and eventually Swift and McInteer agree to investigate the case.

The comic seems to start off promisingly as a slightly hardboiled period mystery but the overall execution doesn't quite hold together. Black Feather Falls is in the long tradition of the amateur detective, but the actual nuts and bolts of Swift's investigation are far too transparent. The minor story turns that drive the duo forward - the far-too coincidental connection between the victim and the absent Pertwee, or very conveniently running into someone who has a unique sweater that a friend of Swift's just happens to know about - it's all too neat, all too d.e.m.-y. I do like the setting, and the view of the recent Great War that still hurts like an open wound. And I really like Lindner's visual style (check out a few pages below). But I just don't think the art style really jives with the attempted tone of the story, nor that the tone consistently holds up.

Maybe when the story is finished I could be moved to recommend it, but the first chapter presented here is just too perfunctory and sloppily constructed. Perhaps if Lindner produced this as a graphic novel with the pacing such affords, she could have avoided the narrative traps she sets for herself here. But as a piece of serialized fiction, it just doesn't work.

Lindner debuted The Black Feather Falls 1 this weekend at SPX, and it can be read online at ACT-I-VATE. The print comic will be released in the United Kingdom from Soaring Penguin Press and in the United States direct from the author at on October 22.


  1. Hi Jeffrey! Thanks for your review. I do hope I can change your mind about the story by the end, but in the meantime thanks for your kind words on my artwork. Also, I'm having a launch in Brooklyn tomorrow night, 9/24, you'd be very welcome to come along!

  2. Thanks for the invite! (I'd come but I'm working, alas.) I'm looking forward to how the book turns out. Good luck with the launch!

    (And anyone reading my blathering should stop and check out Ellen's wonderful site at