The Vesuvius Club by Mark Gatiss; Sayonara Bar by Susan Barker; Tokyo Cancelled by Rana Dasgupta; Moses, Citizen & Me by Delia Jarrett-Macauley; Conspirators by Michael André Bernstein - review by Lucy Beresford

Lucy Beresford

Lucy Beresford Enjoys Five Very Different First Novels

  • Mark Gatiss, 
  • Susan Barker, 
  • Rana Dasgupta, 
  • Delia Jarrett-Macauley, 
  • Michael André Bernstein
 

Imagine Oscar Wilde meeting James Bond. You can’t? Then read The Vesuvius Club by Mark Gatiss (co-creator of The League of Gentlemen) and prepare for amusing enlightenment. By day Lucifer Box, Gatiss’s bisexual Edwardian hero, is an artist living at 9 Downing Street – ostentatious, but ‘somebody has to live there’. By night, he’s in the employ of Her Majesty’s Government, part detective, part assassin. In the course of his investigations into a diplomat’s murder, the mysterious deaths of two eminent scientists, and the vanishing of an art student, Lucifer ingeniously defies numerous attempts on his life before arriving in Naples, where he stumbles on homosexual orgies, opium dens, and plots to destroy the planet (all the while pursuing the delightful Bella Pok). Lucifer and his world leap off the page fully realised – the book is a sort of Harry Potter for adults, with espionage replacing wizardry. He receives his briefings in secret toilet cubicles at the Royal Academy, dresses fastidiously, and suffers from seasickness. His intimate narrative style is full of droll puns, lively similes, and snobbish asides. Ignore Gatiss’s self-deprecating suggestion that his novel (mocked up to look cloth-bound) is ‘a bit of fluff’: this is exuberant,

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