One of the more fascinating things about the cleverly written The Vesuvius Club by Mark Gatiss is that the story’s protagonist, Lucifer Box, is a renaissance man extraordinaire. Forget that the story takes place in Edwardian England, or even that Lucifer is a second-rate portraitist and secret agent; note, rather, how his inhibitions and peccadilloes know no gender. That the reader will start the adventure around Box’s womanly indiscretions and lead somewhere…else…is simply the sheer flippancy of such a piece of fluff, as subtitled by Gatiss. Box is perhaps an anachronistic anomaly, parading around and performing his HMS duties in a spirit of glam that would make David Bowie proud.
Said somewhere else covers a time and place when audiences weren’t surrounded with formulaic, contrived villains trying to conquer and/or destroy the world. No, The Vesuvius Club is something different. Box’s work for His Majesty’s Service is more of a satire of what Bond and Bourne were combating when things were simpler, when your average villains had something smaller and more bizarre in their sights, like say, a volcano. Apart from the setting, Gatiss excels in his descriptions of eerily misty London cemeteries and runaway hansoms, hazy and writhing opium dens and slightly off antagonists. From London to Naples, the reader is carried swiftly in bewilderment in an overly witty, bizarre, and humorous adventure.