catsalive (Australia) (2009/04/19):
The best way to deduce a murder weapon is, of course, to pour plaster of Paris into the victim's wound. This is Edwardian London viewed through the perversions and gothic excesses of League of Gentlemen member Mark Gattis. His hero Lucifer Box is a self-celebrating, portrait-painting belle monde whose decadent existence at Number 9 Downing Street ('somebody has to live there') hides a secret other life. Following an unmentionable indiscretion Lucifer has been blackmailed into His Majesty's service as a secret agent. The murder of two top scientists drags him from the cockney underworld to Naples, where an end of the world plot unfolds. An enjoyable if straightforward parody of the adventure stories of Strand magazine, Gattis provides some edge by incorporating genre-busting aspects of life that the traditional detective novel stuffs beneath the drawing room carpet. His Holmes figure mentions venereal disease, appreciates that he dehumanises his servants and succumbs guiltlessly to sexual desires towards his Watson.
A popular Edwardian painter lives a highly satisfying double life as a government agent and assassin. Gatiss, author of four novels based on the Doctor Who television series and a member of the Pythonesque sketch-comedy team League of Gentlemen, presents the droll narrative of Lucifer Box, Number 9 Downing Street, thickly punctuated with barbed bons mots as his life is with recreational sexual encounters. After introducing himself to the reader and knocking off a portrait of Hon. Everard Supple, Lucifer knocks off Supple himself, revealing that he works for His Majesty's Secret Service and that Supple was a dangerous anarchist with violent plans. Then Lucifer's painter friend, Joshua Reynolds ("the dwarf"), also of the Secret Service, informs him of the murders of two prominent scientists in Naples, with more to follow. Meantime, Lucifer's begun taking on private art students to boost his income. The first is Bella Pok (a typical pun), a pert beauty who entrances her teacher. When Neapolitan agent Jocelyn Poop goes missing, Lucifer, who must investigate this case as well as the apparent murder spree, accedes to Bella's coquettish pleas to accompany him. In Naples, Lucifer teams up with breathtaking rent boy Charlie Jackpot and finds the eponymous hedonistic establishment, as well as a haunted estate and a gender-bending surprise, on his way to the solution. Cheeky, decadent fun, from start to finish.
julia (United Kingdom) (2009/07/13):
A strange book but I thoroughly enjoyed!