Oh, I wonder if I should have saved this for the last in this series. I didn’t – I have a few more up my sleeve – but this is a favorite. Possibly my very favorite. Strangers in Paradise by Terry Moore is part convoluted soap opera, part crime fiction, part love story, part mob thriller. Plus it’s got a great sense of humor – I don’t know of any other story I’ve ever read that had the best elements of any great epic story plus pretty artwork all in one place.
The mainest main character – the blonde on the cover to the right – is Katina Choovanski, more commonly known as Katchoo. Her best friend – and the love of her life, though that feeling doesn’t really seem to be mutual – is Francine Peters. And the entirety of Strangers in Paradise is their story, though it’s rather more Katchoo’s story than Francine’s, but the two are pretty inextricably intertwined for most of the books. Katchoo is a petite, cranky, bad-ass artist. Francine is a sweet, soft-hearted dreamer with a penchant for terrible men. They constantly annoy each other but can’t imagine navigating life’s trials and tribulations without each other.
But Katchoo has a past that Francine knows nothing about. It’s a dangerous past, one with drugs and murder and prostitution and organized crime. She was relatively innocent of the worst of the crime, but there are people from her old life still looking for her. When people like that look for you, they will find you. Life then gets much more complicated. To make things even more confusing, a boy named David falls in love with Katchoo and won’t leave her alone until she agrees to be friends with him – only to find out he has a secret past too, one that makes things even harder.
The series is finished now, and has been finished for years, so it should be relatively easy to find the collected issues. The regular trade books go through number 19; after the series ended, Moore published a set of what they call “pocket books” that number only six. The story is truly fantastic – engrossing and exciting and endearing and funny all at the same time (sorry, couldn’t think of a good “e” word for “funny”). I cannot recommend this series highly enough. Every time I pick it up, I find I can’t put it down again until I’ve finished the whole story.