Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Lost Lad London
Grant is getting impatient and believes that Al, if not the actual killer, is good enough to arrest. Ellis remains committed to assuaging his guilty conscience from a past case by exonerating Al, and he's getting closer and closer to finding the murderer. Will he catch the killer in time? Or will Al become another faceless young brown man crushed in the system?
Lost Lad London is translated by Eleanor Ruth Summers and lettered by Abigail Blackman.
Let me begin by saying that I solved this one in volume two. That's in no way a statement of any presumed superiority on my part nor about the quality of the mystery – my only complaint is that the book (and series) ends a bit too abruptly. It's said that the denouement isn't marred by knowing who the killer is. There has always been an underlying suspicion that the murder plot was, in some ways, only there to prop up Shinya's point about racism, systemic and otherwise. Al was pinpointed as the mayor's killer because someone said that they saw a South Asian man leaving the train car, which, if you think about the vastly multicultural nature of cities like London, barely passes the sniff test. Why wouldn't there be a person of South Asian descent on any given train car? Why is that even a fact worth noting?
The answer to that is, undeniably, racism. That the murderer was the last person the racist head detective thought serves to underline the entire reason he went after Al in the first place: he was a young, poor, brown boy. Al was alone in the world, for all intents and purposes: living away from his adoptive parents, with no contact or knowledge of his birth parents, a university student, and generally someone who kept to himself. There was not, at first glance, anyone to stand up for Al, and his quiet demeanor only served to reinforce Grant's preconceived notion that he was hiding something. If Ellis, himself an outsider as a Black man, hadn't taken an interest, Al would have been railroaded into a tacit admission of guilt. And Ellis' interest wasn't even a guarantee; had he not had PTSD after a similar case went horribly wrong, he might not even have noticed another young man being caught up in the gears that drive the system.
The idea of systemic racism and its effect on policing isn't new. Creator Shima Shinya doesn't try to make it so. The point of the series is how it blinds and binds people and how it haunts the good (or at least better) ones. The strategic placement of four book titles in this volume – Lord of the Flies, The Remains of the Day, To The Lighthouse, and Othello – all point to the ease with which someone becomes Other, and what we are capable of doing to them once they're no longer "one of us." Shakespeare's Othello is the most obvious parallel because its action hinges on the distrust between Othello, a Black man, and other white characters in the play; race is a driving factor. But William Golding's novel about boys going feral and turning on one another also informs the identity of the killer and their reasons for doing what they did. In contrast, Woolf's novel examines interfamilial tensions, something definitely on display here. Finally, Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day reaches into the past and how it informs the present, again, something that is a major piece of the puzzle surrounding the mayor's death. Shinya's use of these titles and their implications helps to keep this from being just another cookie-cutter statement on racially-based profiling. It helps to show that the author knows the subject from more than just reading headlines. When Safa, a policewoman who wears a hijab, remarks to a white coworker that she knows she'll never be promoted, she's underlining this by making the most obvious of statements about the world she works in. Ellis and Yuki respect her and her work, but that's no guarantee that anyone else will see past how she's Other.
Ultimately, this series doesn't have a very final ending. We don't know what will happen to the murderer, what, if any, repercussions Grant will face, or how Yuki feels about the events. Al does find some peace, as does Ellis, but there's a genuine sense that their lives go on, that this was just one moment in them that they would have to move on from in their own ways. But it does feel like the sort of ending that a story like this needed to have. From the reveal of the series' omnipresent birds as representatives of Ellis' trauma to using paper planes as symbolic of an artificial relationship, Lost Lad London is a well-written and well-drawn series. It ends in a hurry, but this would be an amazing choice to adapt into a live-action TV series (PBS? BBC? Anyone?), and it's an excellent story overall. Sometimes being colorblind is about not being able to see around the colors, which this conclusion shows very well.
Overall : A-
Story : A-
Art : B
+ Makes its point without being preachy, feels solid rather than based on snippets and headlines. Excellent use of well-placed literary symbolism.
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