Lost Lad London Volume 3 Review
Student Al Adley, suspected of murdering the mayor of London on a Central line tube train, is currently being sheltered by grizzled veteran Detective Inspector Ellis who believes the young man has been framed by the real murderer. Accident-prone Ellis is still walking wounded, on crutches and with a neck brace, so his younger colleagues are doing much of the legwork investigating. A flashback to five years ago takes us into the King household and shows us how much his son Royce looked up to his father and respected his hard work ethic. We see father and son out for a walk together, skimming paper darts across a lake, and now the paper darts that are shown in the first panels at the very beginning of Lost Lad London take on a new significance for the reader.
Inspector Grant is currently masterminding the case but, under pressure from the higher-ups, he’s in a hurry to get results. Ellis is still haunted by a case from his younger days, in which he gave in to pressure to do likewise resulting in a wrongful conviction and a tragic outcome. But Al is being stalked – probably by the murderer – and Inspector Grant, still convinced that he’s guilty, is planning on bringing him in for questioning (and then to arrest him).
The foreshadowing in Lost Lad London has been almost too successful. As the trap that Ellis has set up for the mayor’s murderer begins to close, it stirs feelings in the reader, not so much of ‘who is it?’ but more ‘will they strike again?’ and ‘what really is their true motivation?’ This last question is the one that is answered, although rather perfunctorily. It all feels a little underwritten, as though Shima Shinya was under editorial pressure to swiftly resolve the mystery – although the denouement itself is undeniably effectively delivered. However, it’s the characters and the mangaka’s distinctive art that make Lost Lad London such a good read and, given that it wraps in only three volumes, the central spiky relationship between Al and Ellis is believably developed, compelling, and what kept me reading to the end. The other main thread that in some ways is more dominant than the murder itself is that of racial prejudice. From the Chinese restaurant owners who employ Al as a part-timer to another younger member of Ellis’s team, Safa (who wears a hijab), not forgetting Yuki, Ellis’s long-time colleague, all have experienced racial prejudice in one way or another and the women in the department are also on the receiving end of a different but equally insidious kind of prejudice. (And even though this is fiction, this aspect makes especially relevant reading, very sadly, and can’t fail to remind UK readers of recent highly disturbing revelations about some male members of the Metropolitan Police.)
It’s a shame that, apart from the cover art, there are no colour images in this volume as the mangaka’s use of colour is as different and distinctive as her use of black and white; the glossy page at the front is merely a title page, followed by a list of contents, and feels like a wasted opportunity. But the suburban London street scenes and tube stations convince, as before, lending the story an air of gritty veracity.
The translation for Yen Press is yet again by Eleanor Ruth Summers and, aided by Abigail Blackman’s lettering, makes this an effortless read.
In spite of the (minor) reservations I’ve mentioned, this is still a gripping read and I’d have loved for it to have continued for another volume; the characters Shima Shinya has created feel very real and I wonder if she might consider returning at some stage with another London-based case for Detective Inspector Ellis to solve… I’d definitely want to read that! (Failing that, I’d be really keen to read GLITCH, her latest series – big hint.)