Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff. First Second, 2013.
Constantinople, 1807. Lieutenant Erdemoglu Selim first meets Delilah Dirk in prison, when he takes her official interview. She’s in for trespassing. Miss Dirk is an adventuress: half English, half Greek, all trouble-maker. When she escapes quite handily shortly afterwards, Selim ends up being blamed. Miss Dirk is not wandering aimlessly: she plans to steal loot back from the evil pirate captain Zakul, whose depredations have made life difficult for her struggling merchant uncle.
There are lots of fun action scenes, reminiscent to me of the Three Thieves books, but here they are punctuated by quiet conversations between Mr. Selim and Miss Dirk on board ship or around a campfire in the wilderness, where they discuss things such as good quality tea and the relative merits of city versus wilderness living. Always, the reader wonders where Mr. Selim will find his next cup of tea and if he will survive making the acquaintance of Miss Dirk.
The story is drawn with angular lines and fluid faces, making for a very fun story. My love and I both found historical quibbles – he thought the boat looked much too late period, though he withdrew his objections when it started flying. I thought Delilah Dirk’s outfit resembled nothing historical and was wildly improbable. It’s a fantasy adventure, so we let these things go in favor of enjoying the ride.
I’d recommended that the teen librarian buy this for her graphic novel collection, based on the large number of good reviews I was seeing of it. It’s been going out gangbusters here, and deservedly so. It’s also been nominated for a Cybils in the graphics category, though for kids rather than teens. It could go either way, really. There’s some cartoony violence and nothing really sexual, but the characters are all adults. Comic publishers like to publish things as “all ages”, which makes things difficult for libraries with separate shelving areas, but this really is one that would be fun from at least third grade up through adults.