John Allison’s acclaimed Bad Machinery series of graphic novels continues with The Case of the Unwelcome Visitor. The book follows Allison’s six early-teen protagonists as they search for a new mystery to solve in their native town of Tackleford, England. The hoped-for mystery soon presents itself in the form of a “night creeper” who terrorizes Tackleford, leaving his victims with a strange, absent smile on their faces. With suspicions cast on the new boyfriends of one character’s mother and sister, the kids team up with a local reporter to discover the truth.
The Case of the Unwelcome Visitor offers a delicately balanced blend of the natural and supernatural, and Allison keeps a light, refreshing tone via humor, even as the mystery deepens; middle schoolers in particular will appreciate scenes like Charlotte convincing her mom she needs a girls’ outing to go bra shopping, hiding Charlotte’s true intention of meeting up with her fellow mystery solvers. The complex, intense emotions that accompany early adolescence are often handled playfully, but always sympathetically. There are no simple stereotypes, and Allison’s writing and art benefit from a natural, easy flow, being the product of one mind that does both equally well. By spreading the focus across his large stable of characters, Allison has not only kept this sixth volume in the series from seizing up and stalling, he’s got it running smoothly on all gears.
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