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The Vesuvius Club? Garbage. November 19, 2007

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Books, Reviews.
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I had high hopes for The Vesuvius Club. What drew me to the book was its premise (Britain’s top secret agent who just happens to live at #9 Downing Street) and a glowing missive of praise on the front cover by none other than Jasper Fforde. More, Mark Gatiss’s credentials as writer for some episodes of the relaunched Dr. Who made the book seem even more promising.

For all that, however, the book is some kind of terrible.

I think of myself as a relatively patient reader, and typically open-minded about what I read to the extent that it is written in good taste. Yet I have to draw the line with The Vesuvius Club. Indeed, it’s at the end of page 119 that I ended up throwing the book away in disgust (and I regret having read that far: it only has 230 pages!). Not only is the book utterly aimless up to that point and devoid of anything the least bit interesting occurring, but on the 119th page, after establishing the protagonist as the archetypal spy-cum-ladies man, the author decides that an important plot development would be for our hero to sleep with another man. Not just for the heck of it, but because the fellow is supposedly good at it (the protagonist, that is, not the author).

Okay, so that last bit of information becomes apparent between pages 120-122 or so (I peeked). But the point is still the same.

This isn’t a matter of my attitudes towards sexual orientation; at least not entirely. Perhaps this is an issue of marketing. The book appeared packaged to be one thing, and I ended up getting something I totally didn’t bargain for (nor would I like to have bargained for had I known what I was getting into).

In his defense, Mark Gatiss has labeled his novel “A Bit of Fluff”, which for all its self-deprecating honesty is unfortunately overly generous. The tragedy in all this is that the book already has a sequel, for reasons I cannot even comprehend. Truly, The Vesuvius Club has taught me that what’s read can never be un-read, proving that there are some things that never should have been published in the first place.

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