Jul 10, 08
fans of offbeat crime
Read in July, 2008
A very funny crime novel that is utterly different from most examples of the crime genre. It's an absurdist caper that reminds me a little of *The Chinese Agent* and *The Russian Intelligence*, Michael Moorcock's own forays into the same territory. There are also heavy debts to Firbank and Wodehouse in terms of sheer elegance. But the aura (stench?) of pure thuggishness in Bonfiglioli's writing overwhelms all the ultra-civilised props and effects.
The plot is a bit confusing (and I wonder if it's entirely self-consistent) but everything else is perfect, especially Bonfiglioli's bone dry irony and vicious wit. There are cryptic allusions galore. Most of these I'm sure I missed but I'm aware from those I did catch that they demand a sophisticated literary intelligence to understand.
My favourite of these allusions is an obscure reference to "fourteen in the Borgesian sense". This floored me because it's a variation on an extremely arcane joke that I used myself in my story 'The Mermaid of Curitiba'. The allusion is to the Borges story 'The House of Asterion' wherein the Minotaur confuses the number 14 with infinity. In Bonfiglioli's novel this is used to make a very funny point about unattainable sex.
All that aside, the main protagonists of this novel are thoroughly nasty and dislikable rogues little better than gangsters who somehow conjure up enough sympathy from the reader to make their constantly perilous plights generate real tension.