Normandy Gold #4
Megan Abbott and Alison Gaylin (Writers), Steve Scott (Artist)
October 18, 2017
Sheriff Normandy Gold is a woman who heeds no man’s warning when it comes to finding justice for her slain sister, Lila. Leaving her small town sheriff post, Gold travels to Washington D.C. to investigate her sister’s murder where she encounters corruption and intrigue at every turn. In this issue, after a run-in with Senator Selwyn Grange, Gold heads to the club Aphrodite’s Way, where her sister worked as a prostitute, and discovers that her client was a senior law counselor to the President of the United States. With every interaction Gold has, her path takes a sharp turn, discovering a new nefarious player in her murder mystery game.
Seasoned suspense novelists Megan Abbott (You Will Know Me) and Alison Gaylin (Hide Your Eyes) write a book that oozes 1970’s Americana without satirical overtones of Dazed and Confused. Yes, there is shag carpeting, swingers clubs, or Farrah Fawcett hair on nearly every page, but the biting dialogue and no frills nature of the characters balance the setting and story, making it comprehensible to readers who did not live through the 70’s. Art by Steve Scott anchors the story in a squarely sexual manner, a perfectly placed close up on lips, a knife held at a particular angle, and an entire page filled with naked go-go dancers and active sexual situations. While the color choices are standard, a switch to grey faces and a pink background act as a rolodex card for Normandy Gold as she works to make connections to lead her to her sister’s murder. I wish the art style had a more stylized, noir lens to it, enhancing the seedy nature of the story.
While the story has many twists and turns, Gold painfully portrays the small fish in a big pond stereotype. With every new piece of information she gains, she cannot predict what will happen next. As seen in contemporary culture, Gold learns that politics are about much more than governing a populace. It is about bribes from lobbyists and special interest groups, payback like the Bridgegate scandal, and politicians believing they are above the law and can say and do whatever they please (just check out Twitter). But Gold doesn’t see any of the other forces at play in Washington D.C. Her tunnel vision for justice for her sister drags the story down, and it becomes difficult to forgive her shortsightedness as a law enforcement officer. The story is also oddly paced; this issue feels like an info dump of push pins on a detective’s board without an investment in the characters or interactions taken to earn the information.
Personally, this story was not for me. If you aren’t into the pulpy crime and thrilling stories which Hard Case Crime is known for, this might not be the book for you either. Some may take offense to the way female characters are portrayed as sex objects, while others will feel empowered by Normandy Gold’s antithesis to the damsel in distress. But I can’t quite tell what the story is about yet. Are we cheering for Gold to find her sister’s murderer or are we more interested in the political machinations behind the scenes, which she is ignoring with such intensity?