Pierre The Maze Detective – book review

The Mystery of the Empire Maze Tower

Written by Chihiro Maruyama Translated by Emma Sakamiya

Illustrated by Hirofumi Kamigaki & IC4DESIGN

Published by Lawrence King ISBN: 978-1-78627-059-7

Reviewed by Andy R Davies

This is a picture and activity book combined. The aim is to navigate your way to the top of the Empire Maze Tower before the dastardly Mr X can steal the Magical Maze Cube. Patience is certainly needed with this book, and those who are easily frustrated with puzzles should take a deep breath before starting!

The level of detail within the illustrations is astonishing. The pages are filled with scores of characters and objects that both direct and deliberately confuse the reader. When each double-page spread is revealed, the effect is rather overwhelming and it requires a keen eye to locate the ‘Start’ and ‘Goal’ which bookend each maze.

Imagery dominates the page with a small section of text reminding us of the narrative and giving subtle clues and hints to how you should approach each maze. Those compositions with clear ‘paths’ (along walls, pipes or stairs) are easier to follow than some of the more chaotic scenes. To aid us, there is a kind of delicate vapour trail, a softening of the colours, which highlights the route of our prey, the purple-cloaked Mr X. Sometimes a magnifying glass would be useful to help pick up the tiny details-and this would certainly make the reader feel even more like a detective.

Set in a fictitious American-style city of the Roaring Twenties, the various mazes make up the different floors of the massive Empire Maze Tower. Whilst navigating each one, the reader passes almost every conceivable type of character; hotel bellboys, glamorous aristocrats, werewolves, acrobats and even an escaped tiger line the way.

Imagery dominates the page with a small section of text reminding us of the narrative and giving subtle clues and hints to how you should approach each maze. Those compositions with clear ‘paths’ (along walls, pipes or stairs) are easier to follow than some of the more chaotic scenes. To aid us, there is a kind of delicate vapour trail, a softening of the colours, which highlights the route of our prey, the purple-cloaked Mr X. Sometimes a magnifying glass would be useful to help pick up the tiny details-and this would certainly make the reader feel even more like a detective.

Set in a fictitious American-style city of the Roaring Twenties, the various mazes make up the different floors of the massive Empire Maze Tower. Whilst navigating each one, the reader passes almost every conceivable type of character; hotel bellboys, glamorous aristocrats, werewolves, acrobats and even an escaped tiger line the way.

Due to the themes and format here, there will be the inevitable comparisons with Hergé’s Tintin and Martin Handford’s Where’s Wally? – perhaps the gangs of club-wielding thugs wearing red and white stripy t-shirts, who reappear throughout the book, are a nod to the latter? Fans of these classics should enjoy Pierre The Maze Detective, as Kamigaki and IC4DESIGN’s drawing, epic compositions and ability to entertain, is of a very high order.

This book is intended for children aged eight years and over, which seems appropriate given the level of concentration required. Maps revealing the most direct routes through each maze can be found on the back pages, so fear not if you were unable to find your way around the Egyptian mummies or four-headed lizards.

Like all good picture books there are several narratives running throughout. Once the goal has been reached and each maze has been conquered, there are little invitations to go back and find other objects and figures which add to the complexity of the story. When all those have been completed, each page can be observed again and again, with each visit revealing another character engaged in a funny and often bizarre scenario…such as the elderly gentleman doing battle with a monkey who is destroying his hotel room!

 


23rd October 2017
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