July 21, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Tintin Week: The Broken Ear

Tintin and Snowy go to South America to solve a crime when even they aren't sure what the crime is.

Tintin has to solve crimes he happens upon by dumb luck rather often.  But then there’s The Broken Ear when even he isn’t sure what the heck’s going on.

Tintin learns of a museum theft of a small statue, a fetish, from a fictional South American country.  It’s returned the next day with an apology note, but that just sets the young reporter’s spider-sense off.  At least, I think he’s still a boy reporter.  He lives alone with Snowy, so he might just be a short young adult.  Also, he doesn’t seem to actually do his job anymore.  Mostly, he learns stuff, asks some polite questions, and occasionally knocks out a bad guy.  He’ll wear some disguises when he needs to, and this one actually has him dressed up in blackface to fool some crooks on a cruise liner.  Granted, he doesn’t reveal his true identity until after that pair killed a man, but that doesn’t change the fact he was wearing blackface.

However, this does lead me to the big thing about this particular story, and it isn’t the way Tintin keeps inadvertently becoming a high ranking officer in different military juntas for competing nations.  It’s that, for most of the story, Tintin has absolutely no idea what the bad guys even want.  He realizes early on that the fetish returned to the museum is a fake because the real one has a damaged ear, and the replacement’s ear is absolutely fine.  Two mystery men, one with an obnoxious thick accent that makes no sense since these stories were translated to English, want Tintin dead and the fetish with the broken ear.  For Tintin to learn the truth, he has to find the remote, hostile tribe in the South American jungles that can maybe explain why anyone would want the fetish.

As it is, I think at least a good third of this story deals with Tintin hanging around as different rebellions keep overthrowing the same country, a situation that finds Tintin’s own fortunes often changing at the spur of the moment.  Meanwhile, an oil industry executive is prodding that country and the next one over into a war so the company can get a valuable oil field.  That sort of thing happens in these stories, so it isn’t a big deal, but since Tintin didn’t even know why these guys wanted him dead, and they kept popping up and annoying me.

So, really, it was a mystery to the reader, and not one with a lot of clues or anything.  Between that and the annoying crooks, this one was the weakest of the five books I read for this week’s reviews.

7.5 out of 10 parrot witnesses.