I had never heard of The Vesuvius Club before I saw it in the library and then only picked it up because of the Stephen Fry quote on the cover. And so I thought it couldn´t be too bad, considering the quote and it being British (yup, always a plus for me).
Anti-hero Lucifer Box of number 9 Downing Street, London (“somebody has to live there”) is an Edwardian painter and His Majesty´s secret agent (as a result of some blackmailing). He assassinates people between the fish course and the pudding, gets briefed by his dwarf-like superior in the lavatory, seduces everything on two legs, and is generally entertainingly depraved.
There is of course a mystery to be solved, the one about the vesuvius club, which takes Lucifer to Naples and the hot underworld (hehe). Some renowned vulcanologists have gone missing, there is a body in the Thames, an agent goes missing in Naples, and Lucifer has to make sense of all this, even though he would rather enjoy the company of Miss Bella Pok, who enjoys vermouth in the morning.
The Vesuvius Club IS “delicious, depraved, inventive, macabre and hilarious”! It is escapism at its best, fluffy and gorey at the same time. Lucifer Box is fun,but foremost witty. Think Oscar Wilde in the service. I had a great time reading this, although it´s not very commute-safe. I was giggling all the while reading this and people in enclosed spaces (the train) don´t take too well to it. I can recommend this book to everyone but prudes and homophobes.
The author Mark Gatiss has also written for Doctor Who and The League of Gentlemen, and The Vesuvius Club is the first book in a trilogy around Lucifer Box. The second and third book are called The Devil in Amber, and Black Butterfly.
There are so many great passages in this book, here are a few of my favorites:
“I smiled what my friends call, naturally enough, the smile of Lucifer.” (3)
“It was midway between the fish course and the pudding, as Supple opened his mouth to begin another interminable tale, that I did the decent thing and shot him. (. . .) There, now. I´ve shocked you, haven´t I?“ (4f)
“`Number Nine, Downing Street,´ she said, entering the drawing room. `You have trouble with your neighbours?´ `Only once every four years.´” (32)
“`Ha!´I cried triumphantly. `Exactly what I expected to find!´ Which was a bloody lie but there you are.” (67)
“She was a genuinely warm and congenial old soul who had survived the Tay Bridge disaster and, as a consequence, had developed a morbid fear of railway engines. To everyone´s eternal embarrassment, she was wont to impersonate steam trains at the most inopportune moments.” (70)
“I thought at first it must be some undigested fancy from the Café Grambrinus but I finally recognized it as an almost alien emotion. Fondness.” (175)
“We must have made a pretty sight, lashing away at the skinny steeds but then Naples is accustomed to strange sights; hald-mad city that it is.” (180)
“He paused. Perhaps realizing that a one-sided rant is nowhere as interesting as a taunt-based dialogue, he crossed the floor towards me and pulled down my gag.” (205)