New Brunswick, New Jersey, Thursday, September 14, 1922. Reverend Hall and Mrs. Eleanor Mills take a stroll in the town’s park in the evening. Shots are heard. 2 days later, their bodies are found laying on the ground very neatly next to each other with her hand on his thigh, love letters strewn around them, the scarf on her neck covering up the deep bloody slit in it. Reverend Hall, himself married, was in an open secret of an affair with Mrs. Mills, a married woman of his choir. The perfect ingredients for a juicy scandal and fascinating investigation which the nation’s press hungrily devours. Alas, no clues or evidence are sufficient to make an indictment stick. Was it suicide? A jealous rival? The case reopens again 4 years later as new information is brought to light, indicting the reverend’s wife but she is an upstanding member of her community, denying to the last that her husband had any affair…
I think it is best to start with the actual case. Not every murder deserves a comic book. Not even every famous murder needs a comic book. However, the case which Geary selected for this comic is particularly compelling. It is a murder with plenty of suspects, plenty of motive, surprises along the way, and an official “unsolved” label almost 100 years later. It is the perfect recipe for a good tale and a great piece to pique the interest of amateur sleuths.
There is plenty of information to be found in the book and Geary is careful not to make any assumptions about guilt, leaving the reader to decide for him or herself who is the most believable.
Geary’s storytelling is a bit more reserved in this volume than in some of his other Treasury books. Normally he tries to capture the voice and feel of the period. It was surprising to see him back off from that a bit this time given that the Hall-Mills murders were the most sensationally reported murders of their day. However, this neutral tone helps to facilitate his end goal of letting the reader decide who is guilty. Geary has a handle on the moral and social issues of the day, providing the reader with the context needed to understand the mindset of the people involved.
Geary’s art is simple linework reminiscent of those found in newspapers before the widespread use of cameras. It allows the reader to immerse themselves in the mystery and fill in the blanks for themselves. It is almost as if Walter Cronkite were relaying the story, giving us the facts of the murder from the most trusted name in news.
Lover’s Lane is the perfect entry point to the Treasury of XXth Century Murder series. It is a great blend of interesting circumstances, solid storytelling, and quality art. It is difficult to ask for more!
You can purchase your own copy of Lovers’ Lane: The Hall-Mills Mystery (Treasury of XXth Century Murder) here.