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A Sickness in the Family (Vertigo Crime) Hardcover – October 19, 2010


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Scottish crime novelist Mina, previously known in comics for a run on Hellblazer, provides a creepy, taut tale of family greed that leads to murder. At first the Ushers' squabbles over money, home renovations, and who will take care of grandma are the stuff of ordinary dysfunction. But after family members start dying under suspicious circumstances, it becomes clear there is evil at work. The Ushers' adopted son, Sam, tries to solve the mystery, uncovering unsavory family secrets and tales of witchcraft in the process. The sharp angles and high contrast of Italian artist Fuse's b&w illustrations create an appropriately dark atmosphere and fit well with the plot's abrupt turns. Readers will likely find their alliances shifting quickly from character to character all the way to the satisfying wrap up.
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From Booklist

Award-winning Scottish crime-novelist Mina (Still Midnight, 2010) has written comics before (Hellblazer), but this is her first stand-alone graphic novel. It’s about a family, the Ushers, who put the dys in dysfunctional: father Ted is ineffectual, mother Biddy is unfaithful, daughter Amy rages against unfairness, son William is a heroin addict, grandmother Martha is unloved, and no one will let the other son, Sam, forget he was adopted. The bickering is bearable—until a murder in the downstairs flat creates a hole, literally, at the center of this house of Usher. Paranormal suggestions and a mounting sense of dread will make readers wonder whether this mystery story has a supernatural solution; both the premise and Fuso’s kinetic black-and-white art suggest an unearthed gem from the EC Comics vault. But it’s Mina’s plotting and pacing that kick this into high gear. “It’s a war, family life,” says one of the characters, and if this family feud is fatal, it’s awfully entertaining, too. --Keir Graff
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Product Details

  • Series: Vertigo Crime
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Vertigo (October 19, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401210813
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401210816
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.6 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,117,027 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Denise Mina was born in Glasgow in 1966. Because of her father's job as an engineer, the family followed the north sea oil boom of the seventies around Europe, moving twenty one times in eighteen years from Paris to the Hague, London, Scotland and Bergen. She left school at sixteen and did a number of poorly paid jobs: working in a meat factory, bar maid, kitchen porter and cook. Eventually she settle in auxiliary nursing for geriatric and terminal care patients.
At twenty one she passed exams, got into study Law at Glasgow University and went on to research a PhD thesis at Strathclyde University on the ascription of mental illness to female offenders, teaching criminology and criminal law in the mean time.
Misusing her grant she stayed at home and wrote a novel, 'Garnethill' when she was supposed to be studying instead.
'Garnethill' won the Crime Writers' Association John Creasy Dagger for the best first crime novel and was the start of a trilogy completed by 'Exile' and 'Resolution'.
A fourth novel followed, a stand alone, named 'Sanctum' in the UK and 'Deception' in the US.

In 2005 'The Field of Blood' was published, the first of a series of five books following the career and life of journalist Paddy Meehan from the newsrooms of the early 1980s, through the momentous events of the nineteen nineties. The second in the series was published in 2006, 'The Dead Hour' and the third will follow in 2007.
She also writes comics and wrote 'Hellblazer', the John Constantine series for Vertigo, for a year, published soon as graphic novels called 'Empathy is the Enemy' and 'The Red Right Hand'. She has also written a one-off graphic novel about spree killing and property prices called 'A Sickness in the Family' (DC Comics forthcoming).
In 2006 she wrote her first play, "Ida Tamson" an adaptation of a short story which was serialised in the Evening Times over five nights. The play was part of the Oran Mor 'A Play, a Pie and a Pint' series, starred Elaine C. Smith and was, frankly, rather super.
As well as all of this she writes short stories published various collections, stories for BBC Radio 4, contributes to TV and radio as a big red face at the corner of the sofa who interjects occasionally, is writing a film adaptation of Ida Tamson and has a number of other projects on the go.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Nicola Mansfield on January 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Reason for Reading: I love that the pure mystery/thriller/crime genre is so much more easily found in the graphic novel format now. I'll always take a look when I see one and the plot had me on this book.

They could be your typical family: Ted and Biddy Usher, Biddy's mom Martha, and the three grown children, with the youngest in his last year of his school, William, Amy and Sam. But they are not, typical that is. It is Christmas and in the basement flat they rent out a horrendous murder takes place. Ted quickly makes plans to incorporate that portion back into the house as he'd been wanting to for years. Then family members start to die. One by one. Is it because of the wrath of a witch who was burnt at the stake there in the 1500s? Or has one of the remaining family members decided to get rid of the rest, each of whom has a surprisingly good reason for wanting the others dead?

An incredibly creepy murder mystery. Well-written with a plot that picks up suspense as it goes along and is quite difficult to solve since suspects keep getting killed themselves and the pool of possible suspects to pick from gets smaller and smaller. A delightfully tense and surprise ending with a final shocker on the last page. This is Mina's first graphic novel. She has previously written mystery novels and one series of comics. I am quite interested in reading something else by this author if this is an example of her technique. The artwork is done in black and white with a lot of shadows which I think is particularly suitable to this story (and others of its sort) as it captures the noir feeling that wold be missing if the gruesome scenes were shown in full colour.

Just the sort of thing I like in a murder mystery, gruesome, creepy and a shocker at the end.
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By Erin Britton on November 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover
A Sickness in the Family is a creepy little tale about the complexity of familial and financial relationships centred on the disintegration of the Usher family. Parents Ted and Biddy, their grown children William, Amy and Sam, and Grandmother Martha live together in a maisonette on Glasgow's Eton Terrace. After an inevitable tragedy befalls their downstairs neighbours, a violent thug and his Polish girlfriend, the Usher family buy the apartment with a view to extending their own home down a level. To this end, Ted commissions a bespoke staircase and then allows the builders to rip a massive hole in the floor of the house in preparation for the arrival of said staircase.

While this building work creates a physical hole in the Usher's family life, there are more serious matters afoot which threaten their collective emotional stability. Ted and Biddy are having marriage counselling and constantly sniping at each other, William has been sent down from university and will not explain why, Amy resents her father's decision to sell the family business and feels that her expertise are being overlooked, Sam has unresolved angst stemming from his adoption into the family, while Granny Martha is becoming an increasingly decrepit burden on everyone. And then, one by one, the family begin to die grisly, inexplicable deaths.

Denise Mina's first original graphic novel [she has previously had a run on Hellblazer], A Sickness in the Family is published through Vertigo's Crime imprint and is a neat little mystery story.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After a solid run on Hellblazer, novelist Denise Mina returns to Vertigo to script this entry in the Vertigo Crime lineup. A Sickness in the Family finds her channeling The Fall of the House of Usher as she presents a tale of a bickering, hateful British family, which is all well and good until they start dying one by one. There's more to the story than that of course, but revealing any more would ruin the genuine surprises and twists that Mina manages to conjure up here. Antonio Fuso's stark artwork is wonderful, and so awesomely illustrates the grim proceedings that transpire as things race towards their climax. It's ending may be a little too abrupt, but a nice red herring and some great characterizations more than make up for that. One of the best in the Vertigo Crime lineup.
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By Anthony Bruno on October 31, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Let me state up front that I am new to reading graphic novels, and so far I'm wowed by the genre. Of the ones I've read so far A SICKNESS IN THE FAMILY stood out because of the nuanced characters. These are very real people struggling through desperate lives, and the black-and-white artwork highlights their disappointments and frustrations. The horror is subtle and chillingly plausible. You can easily laugh off fantasmagorical creatures and zombies eating people's brains in other books, but the drab reality portrayed here grabbed me and made me think stuff like this could actually happen. Just one small complaint: Naming the family Usher. The Edgar Allan Poe poke in the ribs wasn't necessary. It's a scary story. We get it.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By UltimateFan on July 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is 1 of 4 Vertigo Crime titles I own. And none of them have been a disappointment so far. This sinister tale of murder(possibly supernatural in nature) and mystery will take you on a deeply disturbing ride of which you will never forget. This is psychological terror and brutally gruesome horror at its best. All of the Vertigo Crime graphic novels say "A Graphic Mystery" on the spine of the book. And all 4 of the ones I've read have been mysteries. They have also all dealt with crimes. But there is more to them than that. One might think by the self-categorization of crime/mystery that these books are like graphic novels of CSI or something. That is so untrue. While those elements are definitely there, I would label this story, for example, as a suspense/horror/mystery. The crime drama factor exists, but it doesn't drive the story the same way the aforementioned categories do; and therefore I wouldn't include "crime" as part of the classification.

Denise Mina spins one helluva eerie story, and the stylish artwork of Antonio Fusa sings with menacing beauty.

Bottom line: this is one creepy, dark and twisted read that will keep you guessing all the way up to the spine-chilling end. It's demented and scary. It's worth the price of admission.
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