The Vesuvius Club: A Lucifer Box Novel Mass Market Paperback – Jul 4 2005
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"Darkly erudite and fiendishly unputdownable -- Lucifer Box is the most likeable scoundrel since Flashman."
-- Jasper Fforde, author of The Big Over Easy and The Eyre Affair
"With its quaint dust jacket and Beardsely-inspired illustrations, the book feels like a visitor from a more elegant era; it has the smell of fin de siecle about it....[Lucifer Box] belongs to a lineage which stretches from Sherlock Holmes to the indestructible James Bond, via the queasy phantasmagoria of Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu stories...But Gatiss is more than a pasticheur; he has ambitions beyond literary ventriloquism. Midway through the story, Box is revealed to be bisexual, and we feel that this is a novel which Doyle, Stevenson, and Rider Haggard would not have been allowed to write. Giddily inventive and packed with delirious incident, it suggests a post-modern project comparable to Michael Faber's The Crimson Petal and the White."
-- The Times Literary Supplement (London)
"Gatiss mixes in The League of Gentlemen's penchant for horror with large doses of arch wit and louche laying about. It's Oscar Wilde crossed with H.P. Lovecraft....this could be the bit of fluff you've been looking for."
-- The Telegraph (London)
"It's Gatiss's impeccable lightness of touch and huge delight in wordplay that makes this a joy. Studded with epigrams, asides, such wonderful names as Strangeways Pugg and Everard Supple, this is a wickedly written romp to put a smile on the face of anyone amused by the strange alchemy of the words 'a peculiar horror of artichokes'"
-- SFX magazine (UK)
"Plenty of sly comic detail (Box lives at Number 9 Downing Street 'because someone has to') and a surrealist narrative that fans of The League of Gentlemen will recognize...kidnapped scientists, poisonous centipedes, foggy chases through London by hackney cab, and a fiendish volcano-based conspiracy that provides the big SFX climax. It's all great fun."
-- Time Out (London)
"The preposterous Lucifer is an entertaining hero and The Vesuvius Club is a hugely enjoyable romp."
-- Image magazine (UK)
"Self-deprecatingly subtitled A bit of Fluff...Gatiss' prose is upholstered in a rather superior grade of fluff: redolent of soft leather chairs in fine gentlemen's establishments, and the cracking of whips in the basements beneath them....Set amid the decadent fleshpots of the Edwardian demi-monde, the novel introduces the raffish toast of London society, Lucifer Box, leading portraitist of the age and undercover agent on behalf of His Majesty's government....Box works his way dandyishly through a sequence of adventures which leads him to penetrate a secret Neapolitan crime ring, plus the willing rinfs of several secretive Neapolitans....perniciously addictive piece of escapism."
-- The Guardian (London)
"Lucifer Box, society darling and spy, investigates the secret Vesuvius Club. Brilliant stuff."
-- Heat magazine (UK)
"In the appallingly appealing Lucifer Box, Mark Gatiss has created an anti-hero for the ages. Watching the number of chapters, then pages, dwindle, was heart-rending. No one has ever combined the seedy, the stylish, the rumbustious, the raffish, the egregious, the outrageous, the high and the low with such wit and grace."
-- Stephen Fry, author of Revenge and The Liar
"Mark Gatiss has brought his customary wit and outlandish style to the page...sharp, witty and shocking."
-- Derby Evening Telegraph (UK) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
About the Author
Mark Gatiss writes for the multiaward-winning British television comedy The League of Gentlemen, on which he portrays a debt collector, a cursed veterinarian, a dog cinema owner who has recently branched out into VHS and DVD rentals, and a Knight Rider fan, among many other characters. He also stars in the feature film The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse and has written episodes for the rejuvenated Doctor Who television series. He lives in a laboratory with a stuffed cat.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
It's the early 1900's, and the speaker is Lucifer Box, an Englishman serving in His Majesty's Secret Service, HM being Queen Victoria's successor, Edward VII, previously known as Bertie. Box lives at No, 9 Downing Street, telling us, "I know, ostentatious, isn't it? But somebody has to live there."
Though serious about his work, which includes an "artistic license to kill", Lucifer Box is a hedonist, not to mention bi-sexual, and nominally makes his living painting portraits for the not-quite-upper-crust.
The real upper-crusters go to his best friend, Christopher Miracle, to have their portraits done. Being rich and popular, however, is of no help to Miracle when one of his students, Mrs. Midsomer Knight, turns up drowned in the River Thames, and Miracle is arrested for it.
A loyal friend, Lucifer works to absolve Miracle, fitting his efforts into his new secret service assignment. Two important geology professors have died mysteriously in Naples, Italy, and HM's agent in Naples, Jocelyn Poop, has disappeared. Lucifer travels to Naples, meeting Poop's 2nd in command, Cretaceous Unmann, and eventually discovers that the two mysteries are entwined.
Just from the names of the characters, you can tell that "The Vesuvius Club" is a romp. There is some clever writing and lots of humor, not to mention a positively gothic potboiler plot. Such as men turned into superhuman zombies by the installation of metal helmets feeding drugs into their brains: "With their curious, sluggish movements, the helmeted fiends began to fire back at us."
It is also Raunchy, and that will not be to everybody's taste. Actually, it's usually not to my taste, but in this case, the raunchiness is not accompanied by gross language. Mildly described sex accompanied by loads of humor is a hoot.
"The Vesuvius Club" is a quick read. After I picked it up in the Mystery section of a book sale, I found out it has a gay cult following. You don't have to be gay to enjoy it (I'm proof of that) - but you do have to have an open mind.
Lucifer Box is an artist, a killer, bisexual, and an agent for the British secret services. His boss and family lawyer, Joshua Reynolds, has brought to his attention the mysterious deaths of two important scientists as well as the disappearance of their man in Naples.
I love Gatiss' work, both as an actor as well as a writer for such wonderful series as Doctor Who and Sherlock. However, the man has a most strange sense of humor. He called it a bit of fluff, but that isn't the right word for it. From the character names to the interactions of them all, this is a very peculiar book. I don't really think it is for me, but if you like the strange, the unusual, the demented, you might enjoy this greatly. I wanted to love this book so much, but it just didn't work. 3 out of 5.
Just a few ways to describe Mark Gatiss's rollicking caper - which I enjoyed enormously.
Sure, it can be described as Sherlock Holmes meets James Bond (if they'd been brave enough to cast the estimable, dishy Rupert Everett in the role), but it seems to share more DNA with a lesser known British export, The Assassination Bureau, a film starring Oliver Reed and Diana Rigg. Like The Vesuvius Club it's an anachronistic mash-up of Edwardian starch, wild espionage spoof and hippie era sex comedy. In a word - delightful.
What I enjoyed most about the whole affair was that, at the heart of it, narrator and ostensible "hero" Lucifer Box, is rather a pompous ass. I suspect author Mark Gatiss is taking sly aim at the English class system, using the preening, egotistical Box as the perfect model of (in the parlance of Monty Python) the upper-class twit. Time and again, we see that Box's mission would fail utterly without the help of his "domestics," the servants and underlings who aide him nearly every step of the way - whether it be with investigating, researching, alluding capture or fisticuffs. Unlike with Holmes, there isn't a lot of deduction going on here, as every revelation seems to come to Box by chance or after the fact entirely. Despite all that, he continues to trumpet his virtues throughout. The only area in which he doesn't appear to overestimate his abilities, is in his powers of attraction, as evidenced by his multitude of conquests - both male and female. A fact that adds a delicous level of subversiveness to the proceedings.
This is a terrific, light romp - outlandish, funny, sexy - even a bit suspenseful and surprising. Perfect for a hot, lazy day at the beach.