John "The Gneech" Robey (the_gneech) wrote,
John "The Gneech" Robey

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Most Unsuitable, Sir

Well, I have finished Don't Point That Thing At Me, the first of the Charlie Mortdecai thrillers by Kyril Bonfiglioli. (This series, you may recall, was recommended to me by Gary Gygax, upon his learning that I was a Wodehouse fan. Well, when an August Personage recommends something to me, I generally waste no time in checking it out.)

The Wodehouse connection is obvious enough; the cliché that reviewers use about the Mortdecai books, I have discovered, is that they're "one half P.G. Wodehouse, and one half Raymond Chandler." Bonfiglioli makes constant references to Wodehouse, lifting phrases and making entertaining turns-of-phrase with a Wodehousian style. His use of language is certainly well-oiled and entertaining ... but the story, I regret to say, is crap.

Like the disappointing Wake Up, Sir!, this book is lurid, in a way that Wodehouse would spurn like a rabid dog. It's intended to be a caper story, and for the first chapter or so, it seems like a charming little story of larceny, until the protagonist is suddenly gruesomely tortured and things just start going downhill from there. The fact that the plot makes precious little sense doesn't help things, but really it doesn't hurt them that much either.

This is the kind of book that literati are prone to gushing over with phrases like "deliciously wicked" or some such gibberish. Well, it is my considered opinion that genuine wickedness is not delicious at all, and I am sick of people telling me it is.

A veneer of panache doesn't make an annoying creep any less of an annoying creep, and nobody in Don't Point That Thing At Me isn't an annoying creep as far as I can tell. The least annoying of the creeps is Mortdecai's manservant Jock, who's sort of like an amiably loyal dog who keeps accidentally tearing people's throats out. (SPOILER WARNING! Jock, as the only likeable character, naturally gets killed off somewhere near the end. Except that he shows up again in the sequel ... I presume there's some attempt to explain this occurence, although I can't imagine a convincing way to pull it off given how he dies. END SPOILER WARNING)

So anyway, the net result is that the rest of the Charlie Mortdecai library will not be joining my collection, I'm afraid. From what I gather, they don't get any better, just darker and more implausible. The author, Bonfiglioli, was not a happy man, and if the behavior of his putative alter-ego in Don't Point That Thing At Me is a wish-fulfillment fantasy on his part, I'm not surprised that he drank himself to death.

Le sigh!

-The Gneech
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