Lucifer Box. 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...
BLACK BUTTERFLY is the third Secret Service novel featuring tall, dark, suave spy about town Lucifer Box. Although it will come as a bit of a shock to readers of these books to discover that Lucifer has gotten old, fast approaching retirement. Good grief! Old age comes to Lucifer Box ... who would have believed it could ever happen. Worse still, this is billed as the final of the Lucifer Box novels which is particularly sad for those readers who have come to love the overly energetic lovelife, spycraft and general man about towning of the great Lucifer Box.
But retirement is coming, Queen Elizabeth II is newly established on the throne, and pillars of the English Establishment have started dying in bizarre accidents. Lucifer Box is the only man for the job - from the back streets of Soho, to the souks of Istanbul and the sun and sand of Jamaica, Lucifer must confront an enemy with roots in his own past, and discover who is behind the enigmatic (and not unattractive by any means) assassin Kingdom Kum. All at the same time that he must deal with the news that his young son - Christmas Box - wants to be a Boy Scout of all things!
Aging Lucifer may be. Pressing retirement may be. Burdened with unexpected parental responsibility as he is. Confounded by his offspring's somewhat conservative pursuits, Box can be relied upon when duty calls. And there are some duties that could only be resolved by a man of the eclectic tastes and experiences of Box. But this case, with the dangerous and desirable Kingdom Kum stalking his every move comes with a level of personal threat that Box would shrug off in his younger days.
Of course there's very very little that's serious in these books, and that's exactly why they are so fantastic. BLACK BUTTERFLY is as crazy, energetic and risqué as the earlier two books - all the action, suspense, thrills, spills, love and yearning, lust and sex, delivered in the same wonderful, slightly tongue in cheek fashion. I do confess a considerable feeling of sadness if this is, in fact, the last ever Lucifer Box book. I really can see how he could be called upon to perform yet more daring deeds - from his wheelchair in his dotage if necessary.
If you're a fan of crazy puns and tongue in cheek humour, and don't mind a little, shall we say unorthodox personal lifestyle choices, then BLACK BUTTERFLY and the two earlier books - THE VESUVIUS CLUB and THE DEVIL IN AMBER could be just the thing. You're certainly in for a bit of a fun treat. It might be best if you could read the books in order as they are set in vastly different time periods (Edwardian, the 1920's and finally the 1950's and you do get a bit of a feeling of the different time settings) but it's probably not strictly necessary if you're having trouble tracking down any of them.
DEVIL IN AMBER - Mark Gatiss
At last! LUCIFER BOX, His Majesty's most daring - and dissolute - secret agent returns in a mystery set some twenty years after the scandalous events of the bestselling THE VESUVIUS CLUB. This time he faces treachery within his own service and a fascist messiah with a peculiarly Satanic design ...
It's the 1920's and it falls to Lucifer Box to save the civilised world (or at least it seems so to him - and probably him alone!) The threat is coming from many fronts - his own superiors are applying more than a little pressure for Box to retire quietly. Meanwhile, somebody must get to the bottom of FAUST (Fellowship of Anglo-United States Trust) an Anglo-American fascist fraternity and its sinister leader, Olympus Mons. The presence of Lucifer's sister Pandora in FAUST is just another inconvenience that simply must be dealt with. When Box is assigned to kill a fence and cocaine dealer he has to be saved by younger agent Percy Flarge. The small piece of silk purloined from Hubbard's pocket sets of a chain of events that allow Box to infiltrate FAUST and discover Mons' secret obsession. There are also more personal threats - for a start who's side is Flarge really on, and besides that the sexual athletics required of a man of Box's reputation is all very fine and well, but nobody's as young as they used to be; and then there's all that dashing, leaping, rushing and jumping - it's enough to tire out even our super-agent Lucifer Box!
High farce, deliciously offensive, depraved, frequently utterly and irrepressibly ridiculous, THE DEVIL IN AMBER sets out to tell a rollickingly funny story with, one would presume, the author's tongue firmly placed in HIS cheek. Using a style which is ever so slightly mocking and perhaps with more than a tip of the hat to the phrasing of the Golden Age era, Lucifer Box tells the story of daring doings; sexual conquest (bi-sexual of course); leapings and lurchings from America to England; up cathedral bell towers; down into the bowels of ships; rowing and running and driving at break neck speed through a story that ends in a blaze of pagan ritual that just had tears of laughter streaming down this readers OWN cheeks.
Not a book for the easily offended, there's more than enough to scandalise the easily scandalised or amuse the easily amused - THE DEVIL IN AMBER's not exactly what you'd call the most thought provoking or challenging of crime / spy fiction - but it definitely qualifies as one of those highly amusing, light-hearted, macabre moments of hilarity that come along every now and again to remind you not to take everything in life all that seriously.
Amongst many other claims to fame, Mark Gatiss is a member of the sketch comedy team The League of Gentlemen, and appeared in the 2007 Doctor Who series as Dr Lazarus in the episode The Lazarus Experiment.