Lucifer Box, His Majesty's most daring--and depraved--secret agent returns in a mystery set some twenty years after the scandalous events of The Vesuvius Club. This time he faces treachery within his own service and a fascist messiah with a peculiarly Satanic design...
Lucifer Box--the gorgeous butterfly of King Bertie's reign, portraitist, dandy and terribly good secret agent--is feeling his age. Assigned to observe the activities of fascist leader Olympus Mons and his fanatical Amber Shirts in a snow-bound 1920s New York, Box finds himself framed for a vicious murder.
Using all his native cunning, Box escapes aboard a vessel bound for England armed only with a Broadway midget's suitcase and a string of unanswered questions. What lies hidden in the bleak Norfolk convent of St Bede? What is 'the lamb' that Olympus Mons searches for in his bid for world domination? And what has all this to do with a medieval prayer intended to summon the Devil himself?
From the glittering sophistication of Art Deco Manhattan to the eerie Norfolk coast and the snow-capped peaks of Switzerland The Devil in Amber takes us on a thrilling ride that pits Lucifer Box against the most lethal adversary of his career: the Prince of Darkness himself.
Set in the 1920s, British author Gatiss's second novel (after The Vesuvius Club), an awkward mix of P.G. Wodehouse and Seabury Quinn, finds English spy Lucifer Box targeted both by his country's foes and by rivals within the British secret service. After an assignment in New York almost costs him his life, Box comes across a mysterious parchment that appears to be of interest to a megalomaniacal fascist leader, Olympus Mons, who heads an international band named F.A.U.S.T., an acronym for the Fascist Anglo-United States Trinity. Box's chance discovery that his sister, Pandora, has become part of Mons's inner circle provides him with an in, leading him back across the Atlantic, and in and out of a variety of sexual encounters. The light-hearted action sequences don't quite mesh with a supernatural element involving the devil.
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January 09, 2007
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Excerpt from The Devil in Amber by Mark Gatiss
He was an American, so it seemed only fair to shoot him.
I'd already winged the beggar once - somewhere in the region of his flabby calves - and was now in hot pursuit with the tenacity for which I'm mildly famous. For reasons too dreary to dwell on, I found myself clinging to the running board of a motor car, wind whipping at my face, positively pelting through the choked streets of Manhattan. Ahead of me loomed the gorgeous elegance of the new Chrysler Building, thrusting like a sword into the cold, brilliant blue sky. Ice and sun glinted off its exterior; sharp as a pin in the eye.
For those of you not in the know (dear me, where have you been?), my name is Lucifer Box: painter, occasional memoir-scribbler and agent (most secret) for His Majesty's Government. Sad it is to relate that my artistic career was somewhat in the doldrums. Fashion, that gay but inconstant dog, had moved on and I was regarded with some suspicion by the bright lads of the new school. Passý, old-hat, pre-War (the Great one, you understand: although there'd been nothing particularly great about it from my point of view). Between the Surrealists and the Cubists and the Whatsists, there seemed precious little demand for a spectacularly good portrait painter such as yours truly. Oh, don't protest! Modesty is for amateurs.
Even the landed gentry who had once positively drenched me in commissions seemed in thrall to the damned new religion of photography, and were busy cramming the green-damask walls of their country piles with horrid daguerreotypes of their scarcely smiling selves. And so here was I, the gorgeous butterfly of King Bertie's reign: middle-aged and rather neglected, my hair shorter and greying - though my figure still as trim as a boy's, thank you very much.
Crouched low against the cold metal of the motor, I peered at my distorted reflection in the window. Still a head-turner, no doubt about it, and those eyes no less blue, no less cold and clear.
So much for Art! Happily I had other interests and when not exhibiting my daubs to an increasingly bored public, I was engaged, as I've said, doling out death and violence as gleefully as I did Crimson Alizarin or Mars Yellow. Every man should have a hobby.
Trouble was, of late the glee had rather gone out of this too. But I mustn't get ahead of myself.
The chap I'd been assigned to bump off on this charming December day was called Hubbard. Hubbard the Cupboard, don't you know (the Colonials like their schoolyard nick-names), his curious moniker coming not only from his ungainly shape but from his being a dealer in stolen goods. It was said Hubbard's cupboard was never bare.
The fat fool, however, had strayed somewhat from his usual territory of filched diamantý and crudely forged Demuths, being the brains, it was said, behind an influx of cheap cocaine that was currently drowning New York's nightspots. So, before the hooters of all the hoofers were irretrievably rotted, Hubbard was to be removed from the scene forthwith.
I was in town, tying up the loose ends of another job (the startling history of the Sumatran Automata will have to wait for another day), and, at its conclusion, had been hastily shunted off in pursuit of this nefarious drug baron.
I kept my head low as the car slowed down. The fat man's blood was visible in the snow, trailing in neat crimson curlicues as if fallen from a leaking paint tin. If I could finish him off by lunchtime, I knew a place down in the Bowery that did a smashing shad-roe-caviar club sarnie.
Dropping from the running board, I flattened myself against the grimy wall of the nearest brownstone and watched as the flivver chugged off with a backfire like a Lewis gun.
Inclining my trilby at a rakish angle, I paused a moment, knowing I cut quite a dash. I'm afraid I rather fancied myself - but then everyone else did, so why should I be left out of the fun?