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- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
You know this is going to be a saucy book from the very first line: "I have always been an appalling judge of character. It is my most beguiling virtue."
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.