Now this is more like it. Maybe it was the locations, maybe it was the 1920s stylings… but this Lucifer Box novel was miles better than The Vesuvius Club. As in, that book looks pretty meh compared to this one.
Box is older and a little less of a fop this time around – for some reason, I couldn’t see the Box of the ’20s exclaiming about having only two hours to get ready for something and then barely getting there twenty minutes late. Perhaps he felt the same way – he’s still vain, of course, and constantly remarking on his physique and how he’s STILL holding up(…) – but he just wouldn’t express it in such a way. Box is, in many ways, a creature of the new century and that’s why he never felt quite… right… in The Vesuvius Club.
The action flows much more smoothly in this novel, with some serious double-crossing within the agency and chases through New York and Britain and a denouement on the slopes of a mountain in Switzerland. The plot was complicated in the right way and when the realization hits that everything has been leading Box to this moment, the reader is just as surprised as he is. I think that’s the best way to describe it – I was definitely far more engaged by this novel. It was original but also very much a classic adventure novel. It did, at times, feel like it could have been a little unstuck in time (that is, it felt at times like a novel of the 1930s/1940s) but it also had some great Roaring Twenties moments, like the opening sequence in NYC.
The evil was a little… well, it was a little over-the-top. Bringing Satan back from some prison he’s been placed in is, well, a little bit too much for fantasy novels, let alone a spy novel. However, because of the setup, I was okay with the slightly unrealistic denouement. It felt a little bit like Gatiss was trying for some Indiana Jones here and, to be fair, the novel did feel a bit like an Indiana Jones pastiche – but it never made it all the way there and Box still felt like a Bond more than a Jones.
Rating: 4 out of 5. Not much more to say, really. I thoroughly enjoyed this book – it was much better than the first Lucifer Box novel and as a result I ripped through it. Box seemed to be getting a little too gay at times – he’s bi, but in this book it felt like his decision to swing for the guys was forced through stilted dialogue and uncharacteristic moments – but that doesn’t really matter, does it? I wish there were more Box novels in this time period…