Forget James Bond, forget Jason Bourne, and you could even forget Sherlock Holmes, because, enter Box, Lucifer Box !
At first, it was just curiosity which brought me to this trilogy written by Mark Gatiss between 2004 and 2008. the hero of these novels is the most secret agent of her most gracious Majesty. Yes, Mr Gatiss, one of BBC Sherlock’s daddies, screenwriter for Doctor Who, Poirot… and creator of the spooky Crooked House is also a novelist. I appreciate him as an actor in Sherlock but also in Poirot, Marple or Being Human and I have yet to discover The League of Gentlemen…
So, Mark Gatiss as a writer… I have not even read a summary of the first book, I just grabbed it (all the more that the cover design was an immediate favourite).
How could I explain Lucifer Box trilogy? It’s really difficult, because I really adored it from the first page to the last! It’s easier to spot the weakest points than to extol the books’ virtues. You could think it’s prejudice even flattery for a screenwriter I admire – but, then, I have really enjoyed Lucifer Box’s adventures: it’s pure madness, some time unrealistic (so?), Gatiss plays with clichés, there are some wonderful writing finds I would have loved to find myself (let’s talk about the use of holy host in an adventure novel… in fact, no, just read it yourself!).
There is a vibe of « The devil rides out » in Gatiss’ writing, and a touch of the wittiness of Oscar Wilde. The plays on words hit the bull-eye and irony is never really far.
Lucifer Box is not at all a white knight, but yet he is charming and attractive . Paid hitman (yes, because being a painter doesn’t pay that much), his morality is ambiguous but you finally subscribe to it without the slightest hit of guiltiness. The first-person narrative offers you to discover directly the thoughts of the secret agent… which are often naughty (pick your kind of naughtiness, you will be right at some point, there are all kinds!).
With Lucifer Box, you travel the all of the world, from London to New York, from Switzerland to Istanbul, from Jamaica to Italia… The situations are at the same time classical and original… Well, the fact is that, of course, the villains want to destroy or enslave the world (according to their mood), but their ways are always peculiar!
I don’t want to give away any spoilers, so I will only tell you that if you like irreverence, frenzy, delirious but mastered plots, an humour either light, or black, or dirty, The Lucifer Box trilogy is for you !And I could guarantee that, when you will close the book, you will have « the smile of Lucifer » on your face !
plots of the novels (source Amazon.co.uk) :
The Vesuvius Club : Lucifer Box is the darling of the Edwardian belle monde – society’s most fashionable portrait painter is a wit, a dandy, a rake, the guest all hostesses (and not a few hosts) must have. But few know that Lucifer Box is also His Majesty’s most accomplished and daring secret agent. So of course when Britain’s most prominent scientists begin turning up dead, there is only one man his country can turn to.
The Devil in Amber : Lucifer Box – the gorgeous butterfly of King Bertie’s reign, portraitist, dandy and terribly good secret agent – is feeling his age. Assigned to observe the activities of fascist leader Olympus Mons and his fanatical Amber Shirts in a snow-bound 1920s New York, Box finds himself framed for a vicious murder. Using all his native cunning, Box escapes aboard a vessel bound for England armed only with a Broadway midget’s suitcase and a string of unanswered questions. What lies hidden in the bleak Norfolk convent of St Bede? What is ‘the lamb’ that Olympus Mons searches for in his bid for world domination? And what has all this to do with a medieval prayer intended to summon the Devil himself? From the glittering sophistication of Art Deco Manhattan to the eerie Norfolk coast and the snow-capped peaks of Switzerland The Devil in Amber takes us on a thrilling ride that pits Lucifer Box against the most lethal adversary of his career : the Prince of Darkness himself.
Black Butterfly : He’s tall, he’s dark, and like the shark, he looks for trouble… Or so he wishes. For, with Queen Elizabeth newly established on her throne, the now elderly secret agent is reaching the end of his scandalous career. Despite his fast-approaching retirement, queer events leave Box unable to resist investigating one last case…Why have pillars of the Establishment started dying in bizarrely reckless accidents? Who are the deadly pay-masters of enigmatic assassin Kingdom Kum? And who or what is the mysterious Black Butterfly? From the seedy streets of Soho to the souks of Istanbul and the sun-drenched shores of Jamaica, Box must use his artistic licence to kill and eventually confront an enemy with its roots in his own notorious past. Can Lucifer Box save the day before the dying of the light?