The Night Owls, a paranormal detective agency, operates in 1920s New York. Professor Ernest Baxter is the brains of the outfit, with feisty Mindy Markus providing the muscle and Roscoe the gargoyle providing the...laughs?
A series of loosely connected short stories have the agency battling gangsters, tracking down terrifying monsters, attending gargoyle weddings, and learning more about each other, from the real reason Ernest Baxter can't go out in the sun (hint: no, he's not a vampire) to Mindy's real origins, a surprise even to her.
The stories are full of colorful and intriguing characters, with paranormal menaces that range from the original Mr. You, to fairy tale characters such as Rumpelstiltskin and the Apache legend Big Owl. Of course, there are vampires, werewolves, and Al Capone too!
The stories move briskly without excessive dialogue and the print is clear and readable. The art is in tidy panels and gray shades, excepting the one fairy tale story which explodes with vibrant color. The characters are easily discernible (seriously, I can't tell you how many gns I've put down because I couldn't tell the characters apart!) and there are multiple threads of plot and characterization that blend together smoothly.
I didn't care for the fairy tale episode with Rumpelstiltskin - it seemed out of character for the other stories, although it was clearly showing it was different, it being the only colored episode, it just seemed overly silly. The tone of the rest of the stories is bright and cheerful, but not silly.
Audience - well, that's a hard one. I wouldn't give it to younger children. Although there isn't any overt gore, there is violence, scary scenes, and lots of more adult situations with Mindy's relationship with the policeman Bill and Ernest. The reader also needs to know at least a little bit about several fairy tales and supernatural creatures. It's appropriate for teens, but will they be interested in what is a fascinating but rather odd little comic? It mixes a lot of elements - romance, independence, history, legend, relationships, and mystery and I wonder if the tone is just too adult for most teens.
Verdict: It was a Cybils finalist, so some very smart folks think this will appeal to teens. I personally really enjoyed the stories and would gladly purchase this volume for my personal collection. I'm reluctant to purchase it for the library until I'm 100% there's going to be a sequel - it has a rather cliffhanger ending and as of October 2010, I understand the Zuda imprint no longer exists. Does anyone know if there will actually be a second Night Owls book?
ISBN: 9781401226732; Published March 2010 by Zuda: Borrowed from the library; Purchased for my personal collection