Graham Rawle is a fascinating writer and illustrator, whom you may remember as the author of “The Lost Consonants” series, which ran in The Guardian for fifteen years. Since then he’s used words and images to tell stories. The Card is his most recent novel, and it’s fabulous.
The novel’s protagonist, Riley Richardson (nee Pincus), is a bubble gum card collector who thinks he’s been assigned a coded mission by M15 to protect Princess Diana. The queen of hearts playing card, dropped in a deserted alleyway by a mysterious grey-haired man, is Riley’s starting point. Then more cards appear. Has Riley got what it takes to decipher the cards correctly? As he struggles to find answers, the reader gains access to the workings of Riley’s mind, and also learns more about his father’s disappearance, thirty years earlier, and the effect that had on Riley.
What’s so interesting about this book, apart from the intricately layered plot and the fantastic character of Riley, is how well Rawle has employed visual techniques to tell the story. The images of the cards are beautiful, but so too is the sur-text that runs through the book. It’s the kind of novel only someone who is as multi-talented as Rawle could produce, but fortunately one a wide audience can enjoy. This man’s a genius, I tell you. You’ve just got to read this book.