Spending a large portion of the day in the car has its benefits. I finished The Devil in Amber, took a bit of a nap, and woke up to get started on Black Butterfly, the final (hopefully not really) Lucifer Box novel. Certainly Box’s adventures are finished, chronologically… but I hope someone (Gatiss or otherwise) brings him back for more adventures.
This novel, more than either of the other two, is a Bond pastiche. Set in the 50s, with Elizabeth II on the throne, Box is an older man (seems like he’s in his seventies… though something seemed not-quite-right about the timing, like he was actually more mid-60s and lost ten years somewhere). He’s retiring, gets caught up in one last adventure… all very late-era Clint Eastwood, actually. There are a lot of nods to the Bond series, with an attractive secretary and gadgets and such – plus the impending “merger” between the RA and MI6 lends a sense of “this came just before Bond” to the entire novel.
It also owes a great debt to the classic Bond tropes of the evil organization with the creepy mastermind and the sexy femme fatale and so on. I wish we’d seen more of the real Fetch than just a few brief memories – like Blofeld, he elevates Box because he is the arch-nemesis and everyone needs one of those.
Gatiss experimented a bit more with this novel, sadly losing the great Percy Flarge from The Devil in Amber but bringing in Kingdom Kum (another great “look at that wacky pun of a name!”), an American assassin. He was a little bit like Felix Leiter, too, I guess. Anyway, too many Bond references, not enough reviewing!
So the plot was good and it was quite interesting to see Box as a man heading towards the end. He’s still a lech – trying to shag the secretary, (SPOILER) shagging Kum, even getting a little bumming done before his knighting at the end. Its just that he has a bit of a time keeping up with things – and yet, he’s still “the best” and everyone knows it. That was maybe the coolest thing. Everybody either underestimates or secretly still admires Box and by the end of the novel it’s so clear why: he’s still got it. It was fun to watch him continue to kick ass and take names and bounce back in the way that so many people in the world of the novel (like his successor) can’t seem to do. There’s also a really hot snooker game, of all things.
Rating: 4 out of 5. This book is a great end to Box’s career. The reuse of the last line – “the smile of Lucifer” – is a great one and I hope this isn’t the last time I read about Box’s crazy exploits. Seriously. Even if it isn’t Mark Gatiss, there’s no reason that Box can’t be like Bond and have a series all to his own, written by other writers. Just let them write novels like this one or like The Devil in Amber.