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by Mark Gatiss
Scribner, January 2007
256 pages
ISBN: 0743283961

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

I hate 'humorous' novels. I have no sense of humor. Well, maybe I do, but it is a very skewed one. I started THE DEVIL IN AMBER expecting to toss it aside within a few pages because I could tell it would be very silly from just the names of the characters.

Lucifer Box, the hero of this novel, is a bisexual aging portrait painter of some note and a British secret agent. He is assigned to spy on Olympus Mons, the leader of FAUST, the Fascist Anglo-United States Trinity, whose members are called Amber Shirts, from the color of their uniforms. You may think that the British secret service operates from a room called MI6, somewhere in Whitehall, but Box tells us that it is actually housed in the Royal Academy, and its head is called Joshua Reynolds.

Percy Flarge, a younger British secret agent, and Box manage to kill a drug dealer named Hubbard. Box suspects Flarge of not being on the same side as he is, especially since Flarge took everything from Hubbard's pockets, leaving no clues for Box to find. Except Box does find a clue. He finds a piece of cloth that is embroidered with strange symbols, which he pockets.

When he goes to a FAUST meeting, he is surprised to see his sister, Pandora (!) is a follower of Mons. He convinces her that he is taken with Olympus, and a meeting is set up. Things go downhill from there, and Box is forced to flee, using the ticket purchased by Sal Volatile for a trip on a freighter to England where more clues await, and he finally confronts the fascist leader in an estate in Switzerland.

There is lots of action and sex and even a supernatural element for those who like that sort of stuff. I found the book engaging and will read the next one when it comes into my hands.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, April 2007

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