[review] Kati Närhi: The Seventh Guest

Närhi, Kati9789510411919_frontcover_final
Seitsemäs vieras [’The Seventh Guest’]
WSOY 2015
ISBN 978-951-0-41191-9

Seitsemäs vieras (‘The Seventh Guest’) is Kati Närhi’s third comic book novel about the smart and strong-headed orphan girl Agnes. Like in the two previous novels (Saniaislehdon salaisuudet 2010; Mustasuon mysteeri 2012), Närhi again skilfully uses a mystery plot combined with characteristics and storylines familiar from children’s and youth literature. Seitsemäs vieras is also the Comic Finland Award Winner of 2016. The third novel shows that Närhi is very well versed in the traditions, plotlines and character types of children’s and youth literature as well as detective stories. The storyline flows effortlessly and all the characters are charmingly weird, although at times a little caricature-ish. Agnes herself is enchanting with her suspicion, curiosity and self-willedness – which means that she is a great protagonist.

Like the previous two comic book novels, ‘The Seventh Guest’ also utilises a detective plotline. Plenty of mysteries and eccentric personalities turn up when Agnes travels with her aunt Silvia to the island owned by a certain Major Orkolora. Each of the guests seem to have hidden purposes for their visit, and curious Agnes usually just happens to be around to hear their secrets. Compared with Agnes’ previous adventures, she has certainly grown up: she is taller, a little less angular and dresses herself with more close-fitting clothes than before. Through Agnes’ development and growth, the novel also touches upon the pressures concerning appearance that girls and women encounter on a daily basis. A little romance is also in the air as Agnes’ first crush Rex – familiar from Saniaislehdon salaisuudet – is now, somewhat surprisingly, working as Major Orkolora’s steward. When the family secrets come into the light, the mystery concerning Agnes’ parents, who were lost in the catacombs, is also finally revealed.

Throughout the trilogy, the colour palette has been dark and dominated by blue with the occasional red used as an effect. This decision has not diminished the power of the expression. On the contrary, the line, drawing and expression form an original narration, in which the text and the illustration complement each other, create the atmosphere and carry the storyline. Some of the chapters of the novel can also be read as independent novellas, meaning that there are stories within stories. At the same time, they also serve the whole plot. Kati Närhi is a skilful author of comic book novels. This can be seen in her comic book novels as the perfect combination of text and illustration. This multilevel narration can really reach out to audiences of different ages.

Myry Voipio

Also by Kati Närhi:
Saniaislehdon salaisuudet (WSOY 2010)
Mustasuon mysteeri (WSOY 2012)

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