Friday, October 8, 2010

The Black Butterfly by Mark Gatiss

This review marks rather a special time in the life of this blog. I promised from pretty much day one that I’d review this series. It’s one of my favourites and there was a WHOLE BOOK that I refrained from reading just so I could share my honest first reaction with you people. This is that honest first reaction, although honestly it’s a little delayed because I’m easily distracted.There have been side-bar promises for months and months, actually more than a year, that I would review this entire series, and here I am at the end of it. I’d promise something spectacular and climactic, but that would be a massive lie. It’s a review like most others, but it’s significant none the less. I’m just excited to have finally gotten something done (I do tend to dawdle) and have potentially a lot/some people know that I did get around to it eventually. Okay, Lucifer Box the Third. Here we go :D

Knave. Joker. Queen.
Lucifer Box is back! (Eeee!)
The hero of ‘The Vesuvius Club” and “The Devil in Amber” returns with an artistic license to kill and the deadliest mission of his career. A new Queen has been crowned, an old enemy has resurfaced and the world is about to be embraced by the lethal wings of the Black Butterfly. 

This blurb is exciting! It seems like it’s everything the last two books are. Risque, silly, sexy and exciting (in so many senses of the word), it is a very full blurb. The general tone of the book is a lot darker than the previous two, the name in itself sort of prepares you for that rather than having the blurb injected with AND ALSO THINGS SUCK SOMETIMES. It’s subtle, so I was dreading the inevitable sadness while being reassured by the blurb that there are good times ahead too. Lucifer Box should not be sad, it doesn’t seem right. The Black Butterfly/Le Papillion Noir is the famous French term for depression. It’s also, conveniently, the name being bandied about when some old (and by old I mean elderly) colleagues of Box’s start acting very strangely indeed. It seems, to my eyes, that a clever way of confronting the terrible heaviness of a that particular mental illness/a mystery is to give them the same name and have Box confront them both in equally daring and balls-out ways, as is his wont. 

The start of the book is as risque as the series gets. A dashing Lucifer and an erect nipple meet in unlikely, extravagant and dangerous circumstances. Sadly though, this is the dream of the aged (no longer with that merciful -ing to soften the blow) Lucifer. He’s dozing. DOZING, internet. This will never do, but there it goes, doing and being. Perhaps I should probably say that it will do, it did do, but it shouldn’t. That would be excessively wordy and therefore unnecessary. Good thing I didn’t, then. 
Box deals with age on his own terms, reacting with extreme distaste to being the venerable Lucifer Box.  We learn of his life since ‘The Devil in Amber’ in dribs and drabs, the most amusing of these initial tit-bits being that he has a son (left on the door-step of course, no word of the mother, naturally) and that he has named him as only the Box family seem able. I shant spoil it, it’s wonderful surprise. 

As always, there is a wonderful sub-plot with a surprising link to the main crime. I always fear that by mentioning surprises I’ll force your brain to be sub-consciously working on it all the while you’re reading (assuming of course my inane keyboard tappings ever convince anybody other than the wonderful Alex to read anything) and you’ll inadvertently join the dots before the proper time, spoiling the reveal before it’s due. The only thing that makes a twist clever is the fact that it remains secret until it isn’t anymore. Secrets aren’t really remarkable other than the fact that they’re hidden. My fear stems mostly from the fact that The Mother had Sixth Sense recommended to her with the words “There’s a brilliant twist at the end!” and she subsequently figured it out about thirty minutes in. It is not an enjoyable film when you already know the thing. In the interests of being as unspoilery as possible, I shall tell you things what I liked that are unrelated to the plot.

Whitley Bey

This is a somewhat important character, a large geordie blokie. It is because of his involvement that I discovered that Mark Gatiss is from my neck of the woods. WE ARE PRACTICALLY RELATED. Or something. It was exciting news for me, anyway. Bey is important and likeable and has an awesome gold coin instead of an eye. The fact that his name is a play on the [positive adjective] local beach is just another bauble on this branch of wonder, which actually leads me to realise that the names have become less fantastical as the series goes on. This is sad. Whitley, thankfully, is an exception. His da’ was a brickie and he’s from South Shields, that’s where I’m from. IT’S LIKE IT WAS WRITTEN ABOUT ME, YOU GUYS! Except that my dad isn’t and never has been a brickie and I have never called anybody ‘hinnie’ in my life. My nana does that. It did give me a sad little local thrill when he was geet proper geordie-like all over Box’s actually proper speech. Like the sort I got when Sarah Millican said she was claggy on TV last week. It’s the little things, okay? Joe McElderry does not count in my mind as having made anything about my home town anything near remarkable. Catherine Cookson maybe so, but one gets a little tired of having her name plastered all over everything. It’s a constant guilty reminder that I have yet to experience anything more of her work than six week long dramas with appalling accent-work on all sides. Only about two sentences of this were actually about why Whitley Bey is an awesome character. NEVER MIND.

Kingdom Kum
Okay, maybe I lied about the names.


She is still here! I’m not sure I’ve given her the proper amount of love in previous reviews, but she is wonderful. Reliable, solid and present as ever. She is the rock upon which Lucifer sharpens his brilliance. As close to a wife as he was ever likely to get, I love her. Delilah party in my head!

This review lacks the amount of Lucifer’s own wit that I would ordinarily include, but I’m writing this on an impromptu trip. The fact that I came quite as prepared as I did (underwear, make-up, plastic explosives etc etc) is a miracle, but I forgot to bring the book I’m actually reviewing. Perhaps I’ll add some later and you’ll never see this. It’s unlikely, I’m anxious to get this posted. Although it occurs to me now that I need the book for cover-review purposes, perhaps Amazon can help me out on that score.

This is already really long. Quick, Amazon, the cover reviews!!!

Be seduced by Lucifer, you wouldn’t be the first  Daily Express

Translation: These books are about SEX sometimes -titter- -titter at titter-

Darkly erudite and fiendishly unputdownable- Lucifer box is the most likeable scoundrel since Flashman Jasper Fforde

I’m sure that quote was on another cover before, it’s still right, although the clumsy neologism makes me a bit sad. I can’t really comment because my own special abuse of the English language is put into a bad light if I mention it at all, but I already did. Put that red pen away, this is my house.

Belongs to the lineage with stretches from Sherlock Holmes to the indestructible James Bond. Giddily inventive and packed with delirious incident. TLS

Well, Mark Gatiss’ recent and awesome work on the Sherlock series for the BBC shows that Holmes was definitely an influence. I’ve not actually read any James Bond (I will get to it one day) but I imagine that’s a good point as well. I agree on the grounds that my speculation is accurate. 

Ok, brief cover review arguments but this was already nearing Teal Dear proportions.
Overall this makes me as happy as the others. The ending particularly, which I can’t really talk about, is a really wonderful one. It’s the bitterest and sweetest and funniest. It encapsulates Lucifer so wonderfully in a way that you’ll miss him but know he isn’t really gone. I got teary, I won’t lie. 
Four mell-heads, because WHY DID IT HAVE TO BE OVER?! ;O;