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.


  1. L L

    Interesting title

  2. Doreen Sheridan

    It’s definitely worth reading. Even better if you can win a free copy!

  3. shannon Baas

    I would like to read this.

  4. Starr Greenwell

    looks like a good book.

  5. Vicky Boackle

    looks fun to read.

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    I really want to win this.

  7. jason fiske

    This is something different. Wouldn’t mind tackling this over summer break.

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    sounds like a winner 4 me!

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    looks like a good read

  10. runner

    Groovy giggles!

  11. jta

    Sounds like a good book to read and I would love to win.

  12. Jeanne Agee

    i am posting again this sounds like a good book that i would love to read

  13. Andy Speed

    I love Matt Kind’s work! Please count me in for this.

  14. Justine Heredia

    Sounds great.

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    What great illustrations! Would love to read this book.

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    Can’t wait to read this one!

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    I love graphic novels, and this one looks intriguing!

  19. Carol Reiley

    Intriguing Title. Engages me immediately.

    Love to win it! Thanks for the opportunity.

  20. Pam Howell

    I love the look of the drawings. Amazing work.

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    looks like a great start to a new collection.

  22. Max Cage

    This one’s for me! Looking forward to checking this out for sure.

  23. Tina Branco

    A genre I definitely want to read more of. Thanks for the giveaway

  24. Rosemary Simm

    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!!

  25. Cary Gordon

    I’m interested.

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    this sounds a little different-love to win

  27. Anna Mills

    Rumination on art and crime! I hope you will need my address…

  28. Don Gentry

    Sounds really good !

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    Sounds like an unusually written book. Would like to read it.

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    Looks fascinating, would love to try it!

  31. Tricha Leary

    sounds good

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    Looks like a great book!!

  33. Andrew Kuligowski

    I saw this somewhere recently, and the concept looks interesting. Good luck to all entries. (Especially me …)

  34. Steven Wilber

    This looks interesting. I haven’t many mystery graphic novels but I’d be interested in this one.

  35. Taylor Duncan


  36. Rose Milligan

    The pictures look fun. Thanks for having the giveaway.


  37. Karen Terry

    I haven’t read any graphic novels, but it sounds like a winner.

  38. MaryC

    Sounds interesting.

  39. Vernon Luckert

    Looks like a good read!

  40. Shaunterria Owens

    Graphic novels are my favorites – can’t wait to read this one!


  41. christopher harner

    would love this

  42. Sally

    This is a very interesting concept for a mystery. Look forward to reading it and enjoying the illustrations.

  43. Melissa Dials

    Art and mystery…nice 🙂

  44. susan beamon

    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.

  45. Erin Hartshorn

    Fascinating perspective. I’d love to read it.

  46. Arun Kumar

    Looking forward to read this.

  47. Cindi Hoppes

    This author is new to me and the genre is exciting…
    Many thanks, Cindi

  48. mosaix

    Strange crimes in graphic novel form-Yes!

  49. Karen Koziczkowski

    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.

  50. Tiffany Duncan

    This looks good.

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    This sounds so interesting!

  52. Gregory Sparks

    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.

  53. Debbie Lucas

    started out with comic books

  54. Suzanne Gonneville

    I must admit: I’ve never read a graphic novel.

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    I’m in it, to read it!

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    looks like a fun one!

  59. Anita Yancey

    What an odd name for a place Red Wheel Barrow. I would love a chance to read it.

  60. Kari Flores

    You have got to love a world where no crimes go unsolved, the only thing better would be a world with no crime.

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    Thank you for the great giveaway please count me in 🙂

  62. Patricia Fultz

    Looks very interesting.

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    Very nice!

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    I love the cover art! Sounds like a great book! Thanks for the chance

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    Sounds like a great book

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    Looks interesting! Love the art!!

  67. Ed Nemmers

    I would like to view the work of Matt Kindt!

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    seems great

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    How cool is this? Hope I win!

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    I am an avid reader. This novels appears to have a different twist.

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    I think my sweetheart would love this book.

  78. Aaron Polish

    I wonder if this book will be long?

  79. Joan Coussoule

    sounds interesting

  80. cheryl HEAD

    looks fun

Comments are closed.