I don’t know even where to start with this review. After You with the Pistol by Kyril Bonfiglioli is in theory a crime novel, but it’s too fun, and silly, and improbable to really be taken as such.
Charlie Mordecai is an art dealer, although in this novel he doesn’t do much actual work. Instead, his life is saved in the opening of the story by some kind of secret government agency under the condition that he marry a certain rich American, Johanna. When the loving Johanna asks him to kill the queen of England, Mortdecai sets about to do it. The attempt goes awry, and he is sent on a mission of international intrigue that is simply absurd, but pleasurably so. He attends a vicious, feminist-run training camp for secret agents, combats an all-powerful union of Chinese waiters, poses as a priest, smuggles heroin from China to America, and survives a shootout in a slaughterhouse.
Mortdecai is the show-stopping star here. As the narrator, he’s a charming snob, fond of both alcohol and sex. He’s witty, occasionally self-deprecating, and entirely politically incorrect. His first priority is himself, which he doesn’t apologize for, and I adored some of his explanations. He’s intelligent and the book is sprinkled with literary and artistic references.
A couple of quotes:
I don’t much care about tea-drinking in the afternoon; in the morning the stuff Jock brings to me in bed is like that Nepenthe which the wife of Thone gave to Jove-born Helena, but in the p.m. it always makes me think of Ganges mud in which crocodiles have been coupling. (Chapter 5)
and from Chapter 16:
“You would now be an enemy, in the third class, of my own organization.”
“Only third class?” I asked in the indignant tones which Queen Victoria surely used when she received the Abyssinian Order of Chastity, Second Class.
I listened to the audio version, read by Simon Prebble. I thought his narration was perfect, captured Mortdecai’s tone and personality to a tee. This is the third in the series, and I think it pretty much picked up exactly where the second left off, but after the first chapter or so, I didn’t feel like I was missing anything. I have heard that the first two are even better reads, so I’ll have to go back and read them.
After You with the Pistol is like driving a car in a city that’s full of detours and dead ends, one way streets and odd street performers. A little confusing, but a fun ride with lots to see.
3½ out of 5 stars
Category: Mystery & Detective
First published 1979
6 hours 46 minutes
Book source: Library