A book like no other I have read so far, although it heavily lends on a lot of popular literature and films: The Vesuvius Club by Mark Gatiss.
It is one more from the treasure chest of books I received earlier this year from a friend, mentioned here before.
Until I did a little bit of research on it this morning, I had no idea that "The Vesuvius Club" is the first part of a trilogy, all starring Lucifer Box, dandy, fashionable portrait painter, darling of London's Edwardian society, as much at home at the most prestigious balls and parties as in the Turkish Baths or in the seedier quarters of Naples - and secret agent by appointment to His Majesty.
Lucifer is a character you sometimes want to throttle for his haughty ways, and laugh with for this naughty ways. He does not mind whether his conquests wear skirts or trousers, and is not afraid of jumping down deep dark wells, crossing ancient cemeteries at night or fighting venomous insects by letting his trousers down.
The novel is set in London and Naples in Edwardian times, and with its frequent reference to scientific discoveries, strange new machinery and tricky electric-mechanical devices with polished brass handles, ebony knobs and mahogany panels as well as equipped with some very well-dressed (and sometimes undressed) ladies and gentlemen, it is a veritable Steampunk book.
Action-packed, fast-paced, highly improbable and quite amusing, it is written in a style that befits the hero (who tells the whole story from his own perspective), elegantly and witty - and rather outspoken at times.
Lucifer has to unravel the mystery behind the disappearance and death of some famous scientists, while one of his closest friends is wrongly accused of having murdered one of his female drawing students. At first, the two cases seem to be unconnected, but of course they would not be in the same book if they weren't :-)
How exactly they are connected is not obvious to the reader (at least it wasn't to me) until Lucifer finds out, and there are a few more surprises along the way as to people's identity and sex.