Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff, 167 pp, RL: Middle Grade
My apologies to Tony Cliff for my reductionist comparison but his creation is the closest we may come to a credible female Indiana Jones. Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant begins in Constantinople in 1807 with a delicious cup of tea. After this initial quiet moment, the action takes off pretty quickly. We next see the thoughtful tea drinker in line to receive his pay, which comes not as a bag of coins or a stack of bills handed over, but as a pile of gold in the center of a great hall where the officers of the Janissary Corps are about to show their skill and ability by fighting each other for the biggest take. As you might expect, our gentle tea connoisseur, Lieutenant Erdemoglu Selim, walks away empty handed. Things go from bad to worse for him when he is charged with taking tea (and biscuits) to a prisoner - Delilah Dirk. A prison break, a double fisted sword fight and the getaway on a flying sail boat and, of course, Delilah Dirk, change Selim's life forever.
How did Delilah come by her awesomeness? She was born to an English father who as a foreign ambassador and a Greek mother widely recognized for her artistic talents. Delilah grew up travelling the world and training with masters from all disciplines - a French marksman, monks at a Japanese monastery and a Native American. She was even a high ranking member of three different royal courts and it's a hoot to see her in Edwardian gowns in these panels, especially because her personal style is so cool - she's got some kickin' boots, a top that shows off her great arms (and decolletage...) and she has a fantastic pleated skirt that lets her stand her ground and fight or haul when she needs to. And her skirt reminds us of the time period and her gender while hinting at her Greek heritage.
While Deliliah gives Selim the option to leave at any time, he stays on with her as she attempts to steal back the gold from thirteen ships belonging to a family member that have been plundered by one pirate. While Delilah does make plans, a lot of the action seems to be last minute, by-the-skin-of-her-teeth hit-and-run action. Explosions and sword fights ensue and a chase follows that leads the pair to a quiet coastal town where they lay low for a while. Selim is enchanted with the family that welcomes them into their home and he finally decides to part ways with Delilah. She gives him a compass just in case he wants to find her again and says she's headed to Greece. The novel ends with a possible second adventure, which I hope is in the works as I type. Cliff's artwork conveys the wonder of this story much better than my words and I definitely recommend this graphic novel for any 'tween girl looking for a very cool heroine and a splash of history. There is quite a bit of blood and death scattered across the pages of this novel, which is why I gave it a middle grade rating, but no more than you see in your average Indiana Jones movie...