On a dreary, stormy night, a strange monster sits above the city of Edinburgh and reflects on the history of the city. Meanwhile, a horrific murder has occurred and the city is abuzz with rumors and whispers. When thirteen year old Craig, who has no home, no prospects, and no hope, climbs the cathedral to jump, he discovers Silex the Stone Man, a strange, demonic creature imprisoned in stone who can speak. Craig is enlisted to work in Silex’s detective agency, along with Father Harris of the cathedral. As Craig investigates the murder and meets the other operatives of this strange detective agency, he discovers there is much he has to learn about life—and death—in Edinburgh.
This first book, Stone Man Mysteries: Stone Cold, sets the scene for further mysteries in an alternate, fantastical Edinburgh. There is magic, superstition, science, and religion. The character of Craig has very little development or elucidation, but readers do learn a little about the past and motivations of Silex, the Stone Man. The art of the book is heavily atmospheric; smeared black and white pencil drawings seem to be continuously wet from the rain and many of the scenes take place in the dark, smoky corners of the streets. While the art suits the dark nature of the story, it does not make for a very easy plot to follow. The characters are difficult to distinguish and very few emotions are shown on the indistinct faces. The black and white settings show readers little of the city that is so important to the story, and readers will have a hard time identifying recurrent places in the narrative.
While the black and white art does not emphasize the gore and horror, there is enough misery and death to make this unsuitable for teens looking for a light, engaging mystery. Most teens won’t be interested in picking it up, due to the convoluted plot and bleak art. Graphic Universe’s library-bound titles are expensive and this is unlikely to repay that investment. Readers looking for gothic fantasy will do better with Ted Naifeh’s Courtney Crumrin.
Stone Man Mysteries: Stone Cold
by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple
Art by Orion Zangara
Lerner Graphic Universe, 2016
Publisher Age Rating: Teen