Flick through the pages of By the Numbers, glancing at the artwork, and you could be forgiven for thinking that Hergé had come back from the dead and started publishing books again. Many of his modus operandi are emulated here: the exquisite ligne claire style; exotic locations; expressive squiggles to denote movement; and even a ginger-haired protagonist. However, while it’s unashamedly inspired by Tintin, it’s no simple Tintin clone. Here, French accountant Victor Levallois ends up in a series of sticky situations in Cold War Vietnam, during the period when the Viet Minh were trying to remove colonial France from its soil.
Levallois arrives by accident, a mule delivering currency for laundering in the volatile country, where money can be made simply by buying and selling French Francs. His trade goes wrong when a criminal gang get involved and he ends up chasing his money to Vietnam.
The Indochinese peninsula becomes his home for a while, but mid-way through the book he’s forced to move back to France during the evacuation at the end of the First Indochina War. Further adventures follow, though, and he develops a knack for finding trouble and helping the police solve the mysteries that surround it, setting Levallois up as something of an amateur sleuth – another nod to Hergé, perhaps.
All in all this is a great adventure story with a grown-up feel, ideal for those brought up on Tintin but looking for adventures of a more grown-up nature.