The Vesuvius Club: A Lucifer Box Novel
by Mark Gatiss
Review by John Berlyne
Simon & Schuster (Trade Division) Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 0743257057
Date: 01 November, 2004 List Price £15.0 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
The Vesuvius Club is great fun! Lucifer Box, a fantastically stylish and arrogant Edwardian sleuth, the invention of Mark Gatiss (League of Gentlemen), battles evil doers through the foggy street of London and the Neapolitan excavations of ancient Pompeii - and he manages to do quite a lot of shagging along the way! REVIEWED THIS ISSUE The purists amongst you (of whom I know there are many) might argue that this is not strictly a genre novel and you'd be right to some extent. I always think that the great thing about SF & Fantasy is the sheer breadth and scope of the material it encompasses. Non-genre readers seem to assume that to qualify as genre, a story must contain a robot or a ray gun (in the case of SF) or a wizard and perhaps a dragon or two (for fantasy). The Vesuvius Club, the highly entertaining new novel from Mark Gatiss, contains no such rigidly defining elements, but it is most certainly a book that will appeal to a wide range of genre readers.
Mark Gatiss is known in the UK mainly for his comedy work with The League of Gentlemen and this ready-made media profile has very much aided the marketing of this novel. It is less widely known that he is a genre fan, particularly of Dr Who, the long-standing British TV franchise for whom Gatiss has written. Now he brings his writing talents to a wonderful creation of his own - meet Mr. Lucifer Box of number 9, Downing Street, London - artist, rake and spy who is called upon to investigate the murder of a British Diplomat in Naples and to fathom exactly how it is linked to the deaths (within days of each other) of two eminent professors of Vulcanology. His enquiries lead him from the highest echelons of society to a seedy, criminal underworld beneath the ashes of Pompeii.
The Vesuvius Club is a glorious Edwardian romp that draws unashamedly upon a number of literary influences. Our protagonist Mr. Box is a stylish philanderer who takes his spying very seriously indeed - much in the same way James Bond does when he uses his License to Kill more as a License to Shag! In this instance, Box must solve a murder mystery that is chock full of period emblems - there are veiled ladies, chases in horse drawn carriages through the foggy London streets, mad scientists and mad science, dodgy undertakers, etc. It's wonderful stuff and all centered around a cheerily narcissistic protagonist with a stingingly epigrammatic turn of phrase. It's Sherlock Holmes meets Oscar Wilde and is huge fun along the way. As it's a mystery, there's no need for me to further outline the plot to you. I can say though, that I enjoyed The Vesuvius Club immensely from cover to cover (including the saucy Beardsley-esque artwork) and am delighted to learn that are some sequels planned.