May 3 2013 8:30am

Fresh Meat: Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes by Matt Kindt

Red Handed by Matt KindtRed Handed by Matt Kindt is an artistic graphic novel and so much more (available May 7, 2013).

Red Wheel Barrow is your average American city except for one significant trait: none of their crimes go unsolved. While this seems to have had no effect on the crime rate, the good people of Red Wheel Barrow can rest assured that hometown hero, Detective Gould, will swiftly bring any evil-doers to justice. With his embrace of technology, an established network of eyes and ears on the ground as well as his own fine deductive skills, Gould is commonly lauded by the townsfolk as the greatest detective since Sherlock Holmes.

Coming in to the tenth year of Gould’s tenure on the force, he’s faced with a wave of strange, seemingly unrelated crimes. There is a woman who steals chairs, and another who orchestrates the theft of street signs. There is an international art thief, and a pickpocket, and several people who are convinced that what they are doing is art, regardless of the consent of the other participants.

Kindt - girl who steals chairs in Red Handed

The narrative switches back and forth between Gould and the law-breakers, bringing up questions as to what it means to commit a crime. With the street sign thefts, for example, done in order to expedite the artistic process, the criminal responsible asks Gould,

Who pays for [art] grants?... The people. With taxes. They also pay for street signs. So what's the difference? A few road signs here and there get taken. And they get used for a greater good. They get replaced with the same money that pays for grants. The people's money. For something that everyone benefits from. If you steal an apple from an orchard and the farmer never notices, in the grand scheme of things... that apple would have in all likelihood fallen off the tree and rotted before it was harvested. Is that wrong?

Gould, of course, has a much narrower view of justice, and is almost wholly absorbed in the task of nabbing the guilty. This leads to friction between him and his wife, Annalyse, whose increasing alienation from him causes her to throw herself into using her neglected artistic talents to open an art gallery. Gould finally begins to see the pattern linking all the strange crimes together, but will he be able to stop the endgame that threatens to upend his ideals of truth and justice before it destroys everything he holds dear?

Matt Kindt has written a book that is a two-fold meditation on criminal activity and the artistic impulse. On its surface, Red Handed asks what it means to be a criminal, and depicts with delicacy the various paths that can lead to delinquency. He successfully shows that you don’t have to break the law to be a criminal, but also pleads for an approach to crime that is preventative instead of retributive. When Gould and his nemesis have their showdown, the latter bluntly tells him:

You're obsessed with crime after-the-fact. With glory that you can deflect with false humility. It's become a game for you. But there is humanity and people at stake. You... need to wake up... Your lack of intervention is a crime, Gould. You could prevent most of the crimes that you solve in your sleep.

Kindt also had some very thought-provoking things to say about fine art, and the parallels between artists and criminals. The saying “good artists borrow, great artists steal” is illustrated throughout this graphic novel, in loving homage to the late Chester Gould who created the iconic Dick Tracy. Like the deceased cartoonist’s, the line drawings of Red Handed are uncomplicated. Here, though, they are washed in lovely watercolors that, as with the narrative, provide an almost deceptively gentle counterpoint to the seedy crimes and violence depicted. The art is as much metaphor for the philosophical aims of this graphic novel as the story itself, quite the accomplishment in a book that is less straight-up crime noir than an endeavor to provoke discussion as to the ultimate price of art.

See more coverage of new releases with our Fresh Meat series.


To enter for a chance to win one of 5 hardcover copies of Red Handed by Matt Kindt, make sure you’re logged in as a registered member of the site, and then simply leave a comment below.

TIP: Since only comments from registered users will be tabulated, if your user name appears in red above your comment—STOP—go log in, then try commenting again. If your user name appears in black above your comment, You’re In!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of fifty (50) United States and the District of Columbia, who are 18 or older. To enter, fill out entry at beginning at 9:30 a.m. Eastern Time (ET) May 3, 2013. Sweepstakes ends at 9:29 a.m. ET on May 10, 2013 (the “Promotion Period”). Void outside of the 50 US and DC and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules at Sponsor: Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010

Doreen Sheridan is a freelance writer living in Washington, D.C. She microblogs on Twitter @dvaleris.

Read all posts by Doreen Sheridan for Criminal Element.

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Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
Doreen Sheridan
2. dvaleris
It's definitely worth reading. Even better if you can win a free copy!
3. shannon Baas
I would like to read this.
jason fiske
7. off2europe
This is something different. Wouldn't mind tackling this over summer break.
10. runner
Groovy giggles!
11. jta
Sounds like a good book to read and I would love to win.
Jeanne Agee
12. jta
i am posting again this sounds like a good book that i would love to read
Andy Speed
13. aspeed
I love Matt Kind's work! Please count me in for this.
Lisa Richardson
15. keizerfire
I certainly find some interesting sounding books to look for from these emails! Would love to win one too!
Patricia Nicklas
16. pmernick
What great illustrations! Would love to read this book.
Maureen Wynn
18. red-cat
I love graphic novels, and this one looks intriguing!
Carol Reiley
19. writingangel
Intriguing Title. Engages me immediately.

Love to win it! Thanks for the opportunity.
Pam Howell
20. phowell13
I love the look of the drawings. Amazing work.
21. Jimbob
looks like a great start to a new collection.
Max Cage
22. maxcage
This one's for me! Looking forward to checking this out for sure.
Tina Branco
23. TinaTutu
A genre I definitely want to read more of. Thanks for the giveaway
Rosemary Simm
24. Ocalarose
Red Handed sure is different and just what I need after reading gory thrillers. A nice light mystery with wonderful illustrations would be
a bonus. Drop my name in the hat for a chance to win this one!!
vicki wurgler
26. bison61
this sounds a little different-love to win
Anna Mills
27. Anna Mills
Rumination on art and crime! I hope you will need my address...
Jackie Wisherd
29. JackieW
Sounds like an unusually written book. Would like to read it.
Jennifer Beers
30. jlb226
Looks fascinating, would love to try it!
Andrew Kuligowski
33. KuligowskiAndrew
I saw this somewhere recently, and the concept looks interesting. Good luck to all entries. (Especially me ...)
Steven Wilber
34. dragonreader
This looks interesting. I haven't many mystery graphic novels but I'd be interested in this one.
Rose Milligan
36. harnessrose
The pictures look fun. Thanks for having the giveaway.

Karen Terry
37. bblol65
I haven't read any graphic novels, but it sounds like a winner.
Shaunterria Owens
40. shaunterria
Graphic novels are my favorites - can't wait to read this one!

Sally Winkleblech
42. sallyw
This is a very interesting concept for a mystery. Look forward to reading it and enjoying the illustrations.
susan beamon
44. susanbeamon
Been collecting graphic novels for years, but most of them involve superheros stopping crimes as they see them happen. Not too many involve deductions. This book would be an interesting addition to my library.
Erin Hartshorn
45. ErinMH
Fascinating perspective. I'd love to read it.
Cindi Hoppes
47. CindiHoppes
This author is new to me and the genre is exciting...
Many thanks, Cindi
48. mosaix
Strange crimes in graphic novel form-Yes!
Karen Koziczkowski
49. zoom38
Love to solve the crime ahead of time and see if I'm correct after reading ! Love the format of Graphic Novel, something intriguing about it.
Gregory Sparks
52. sparkplug54
I really enjoy graphic novels, as they employ two skills that I am short on. Art and story telling. This book proves that they don't have to all be fantasy.
Suzanne Gonneville
54. Thumbs
I must admit: I've never read a graphic novel.
Lance Williams
56. rook751
I would like to include this for my lazy summer reading!
Anita Yancey
59. yellowrose29
What an odd name for a place Red Wheel Barrow. I would love a chance to read it.
Kari Flores
60. kari944
You have got to love a world where no crimes go unsolved, the only thing better would be a world with no crime.
kathy pease
61. klp1965
Thank you for the great giveaway please count me in :)
Jason Nickolay
64. parkerozgood
I love the cover art! Sounds like a great book! Thanks for the chance
68. CherylMc
seems great
Susan Smoaks
72. susansmoaks
yes i want to win this so that i can read it! thanks for the fun blog!
Edward Vandenberg
73. Crunch57
This sounds like an interesting book. A little bit different.
74. Ann Councilt.
I am an avid reader. This novels appears to have a different twist.
Angel Tobyne
75. mrstobyne
This book looks very interesting, I hope I win so I get a chance to read it!
Beth Talmage
77. wordygirl
I think my sweetheart would love this book.
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