Crime in the city of Red Wheel Barrow is rising. Yet no one in the city gets away with a crime. This is all due to the efforts of single-minded Detective Gould, his crack force, and his amazing gadgets.
Yet someone isn't happy with the way Gould works. A conspiracy takes form in order to shake Gould's confidence in the absolute difference between right and wrong.
This comic contains examples of:
- Black-and-White Insanity: Gould sees an absolute division between good, law-abiding people and evil criminals, not admitting to any nuance. Notably in the Hannibal Lecture sequences the lettering in his dialog balloons is black and typed, while his interrogator has grey, pencil-like letters.
- Deadly Prank: Tess manipulates events and guides the actions of criminals in Red Wheel Barrow in order to murder Annalyse Gould, but she seems genuinely shocked that it actually worked out that way, and primarily seems to have been trying to prove a point.
- Expy: Gould's suit and technology mark him as an expy of Dick Tracy, and he's named after Tracy's creator, Chester Gould.
- Hannibal Lecture: Tess tries to break Gould while being held captive by him, which could be seen as either a success or a failure. He shoots her dead, but the book's denouement shows that he's also changed his approach to police work in the wake of what's happened.
- Idiosyncrazy: Some of the criminals, but especially the waitress with a compulsion to steal chairs. She quits her job by unbolting a stool at the diner and plans to steal the city's electric chair.
- Painting the Medium: The book includes bits of story told through newspaper front pages, comic strips, and book covers, in addition to Kindt's deliberately sketchy style.
- Dick Tracy gets a few. The name "Gould", as in "Chester" is one. Also there's a lead character named "Tess", whose life story is told through a comic strip called "Tess's True Heart."
- The city of Red Wheel Barrow takes its name from a famous poem by William Carlos Williams. ("So much depends upon...)
- The secluded area in the woods where Gould shoots Tess closely resembles the place where Tom Reagan was supposed to shoot Bernie in Miller's Crossing.
- Vigilante Execution: Detective Gould executes Tess for the killing of his wife. Implicitly, this is the reason he demotes himself back to walking a beat.