DEVIL IN AMBER - Mark Gatiss

Review Written By
Karen Chisholm

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.

Year of Publication
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Lucifer Box -- portraitist, dandy and terribly good secret agent -- is feeling his age. He's also more than a little anxious about an ambitious younger agent, Percy Flarge, who's snapping at his heels. Assigned to observe the activities of fascist leader Olympus Mons and his fanatical followers, or "Amber Shirts," in F.A.U.S.T. -- The Fascist Anglo-United States Trinity (an acronym so tortuous it can only be sinister) -- in snowbound 1920s New York, Box finds himself framed for a vicious, mysterious murder. 

Using all of his native cunning, Box escapes aboard a vessel bound for England armed with only 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 snowcapped peaks of Switzerland, The Devil in Amber takes us on a thrilling, delicious ride that pits Lucifer Box against the most lethal adversary of his career: the Prince of Darkness himself.

Review DEVIL IN AMBER - Mark Gatiss
Karen Chisholm
Monday, December 10, 2007

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