About the Book

Title: The Secret of the Unicorn (Tintin #11)
Published: 1943
Series: Tintin

Number of Drinks Taken: 46
Drinking Game Award: Inspectors Thom(p)sons

With the Oscars almost upon us, it’s high time we talked about of one of the biggest nominees of 2011, The Adventures of Tintin. Wait, what’s that you say? Tintin is only nominated for one Oscar, and it is John Williams for Best Score, despite the fact that it’s one of the least memorable parts of that movie, and you can hear pretty much any and all John Williams’ scores just by putting on a recording of Dvorak’s New World Symphony? And it wasn’t even nominated for Best Animated Feature? I don’t know either, y’all. Tintin was pretty much the greatest movie I saw last year. Granted, I only saw like three other movies in 2011 and two of them were Transformers and Twilight, so maybe my metric is off. But I don’t think so.

To distract me from my heartbreak that this movie is not getting the love it deserves from The Academy, I decided to re-read some classic Tintin books for y’all. And while these books are a little bit younger than we normally go here at FYA, they have a notable feature that ratchets up the relevance factor: booze. Lots and lots of booze.

Obvi, we need a drinking game to go with this review. But here’s the problem with drinking games: rules! you have to remember them! Whenever I try to play one, I promptly forget all the rules and it turns into Calvinball: Drinking Edition. So I tried to simplify matters for…

The Official FYA Tintin Drinking Game

Drink any time:

  • Something offensive happens
  • Inspectors Thom(p)sons are incompetent
  • Captain Haddock drinks

That’s it! And I guarantee that between those three rules, you will be drinking from the second you open this book till you drunkenly pass out ten pages in. To the review!

In which I decide to start with number 11, because it’s the book the movie’s based on, and also, because my Tintin collection is a little patchy.

Number of Drinks Taken: 46

Let’s pause to remember that this book is only 62 pages long and is largely comprised of pictures.

Drinking Game Award: Inspectors Thom(p)sons

This is the category where I award the person(s) most responsible for making me drink. In this case, more than 75% of the drinking originated from Inspector Thom(p)sons’ perpetual incompetence, despite Captain Haddock’s best efforts to be drunker than me.

I will say, I’m heartily disappointed in this category’s third nominee, the author, Hergé. There was hardly anything politically incorrect in here! But don’t you worry. Last night, I borrowed the infamously racist Tintin in the Congo from a friend, and that promises to be properly offensive.

The Deal:

Tintin, the plucky young reporter and hero of our story, is out shopping at the market when he spots a sweet model ship he wants. Immediately after purchase, he’s approached by two other men, both frantically trying to buy it off him. Tintin refuses and takes his new toy home to inspect. With his friend Captain Haddock, he discovers that the ship–the Unicorn–was in fact the ship of Haddock’s ancestor, Sir Francis Haddock. After the Unicorn was captured by the pirate Red Rackham, Sir Francis decided his best course of action was to light a fire in the powder room and then row to safety to watch his ship explode. Then he came home and made three model Unicorns. It’s a pretty rad story, which is why Tintin is double sad when his model has its mast broken by his sarcastic talking dog, Snowy, and then triple sad when his apartment is broken into and his ship is stolen, and then quadruple sad when his apartment gets broken into AGAIN and totally ransacked. Man, what is it about this ship? Things become a little clearer when Snowy finds a mysterious parchment that seems to be one third of a puzzle that leads to Red Rackham’s treasure, left on the sunken Unicorn.

Then, shit gets real when both the men who tried to buy the ship of Tintin are attacked; the first being chloroformed in his apartment while his model of the Unicorn is stolen, and the second, shot while trying to talk to Tintin. Then Tintin himself is chloroformed and kidnapped; awakening in the basement of some old mansion, where some mysterious antique-dealing villains demand that he tell them what he’s done with their pieces of the treasure map, or they’ll proceed with unspecified threats. He MacGyvers himself an escape, but all is nearly lost when the butler attacks him, thinking he’s an intruder. In the end, Snowy and Captain Haddock show up to save the day, and Inspectors Thomson and Thompson, who have spent most of this book having their wallets stolen by a pickpocket they’re trying to track down, almost ruin everything with their incompetence. No one knows what became of the treasure map pieces, but turns out they had been pickpocketed by the pickpocket, a kleptomaniac with a wallet fetish, and everyone is happy, except the villains, who are now in prison.

What the hell did I just write? Or, The Real Deal:

Tintin has a toy boat with a treasure map inside. Someone steals both the boat and the treasure map. Tintin gets them back.

Villain Badassery: Weak Sauce

Um, the villains featured in this book are a pair of antique collecting brothers. Really? That’s the best you could come up with, Herg? I mean, I love Antiques Roadshow as much as the next girl, but it doesn’t exactly lend itself to suspense. The film wisely abandoned this nonsense and took a minor character–Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine–and turned him into a proper villain.

Comparative Liquorature: Single Malt Scotch

In this category, I liken the book to its equivalent in booze. This was apparently Hergé’s favorite Tintin story until he wrote Tintin in Tibet (which, don’t worry, I have a copy of that one, too). I have to agree with him. Unlike some other volumes, there’s nothing distractingly racist in this book, and instead, you get lots of funny moments like Snowy getting sloshed on Captain Haddock’s leftovers, or pretty much anything the Inspectors Thom(p)sons ever do. I mean yes, the plot is completely batshit insane, but isn’t that what’s so great about Tintin books?

I guess we’ll find out, as I’ve just added a large stack to the “to read” pile.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). The Secret of the Unicorn is available now.

Alix is a writer and illustrator who spends way too much time reading Jane Austen retellings of varying quality.