Yes, yes, the West has declined, but that's no reason Bonfiglioli (1928-85) can't dance on its grave in this laugh-out-loud nasty tale of international intrigue first published in the UK 30 years ago. The Hon. Charlie Mortdecai is a tatty art dealer who just wants to keep sniggering at everything and everyone he meets, starting with himself and Jock Strapp, his "anti-Jeeves." But things keep happening to Charlie. Extra Chief Supt. Martland, his old schoolmate, accuses him of receiving a stolen Goya and then, when the painting is traced to the Rolls Royce of a Mortdecai intimate who turns up dead, presses him to accompany the hiding place on a trip to the USA, deliver it to its owner, Milton Krampf, and complete Krampf's earthly happiness by executing him. Though Charlie's only credential for a diplomatic passport is that his face fits in the spot for the photograph, he's soon driving the Interstates, leading a mysteriously coy escort to Krampf's West Coast digs. On his arrival, he finds that Krampf's wife Johanna is surprisingly eager to greet him and that Krampf has even more obligingly keeled over just before their welcoming tryst. If only things could stay so lovely. One thing, as Charlie would say, stands out like Priapus: Americans whose most intensive exposure to nonstop blather has been Kinky Friedman are in for one wild, equally plotless ride. Two sequels will follow.
"A rare mixture of wit and imaginative unpleasantness" —Julian Barnes
"You couldn't snuggle under the duvet with anything more disreputable and delightful" —Stephen Fry
"Just read the first page of this book and try to keep a straight face. Then try to put the book down. You won't be able to do either one. This cult classic (the first of a trilogy), about louche, sybaritic Charlie Mortdecai, an art dealer largely untroubled by conscience, draws readers into its unpolitically comic world and keeps them there. The plot concerns Mortdecai's efforts to keep one step ahead of nemesis Martland, a policeman vested with the power to work outside the law, and to deliver a stolen Goya he has concealed in the headliner of his Rolls Royce Silver Ghost. The plot takes him to America (where is he much bemused by the locals, and they by him) and back again, ending in a most intriguing predicament. Wry and dry, picaresque and profane, a book like this can be so hard to describe that efforts to do so—invoking some or all of P. G. Wodehouse, Kingsley Amis, Vladimir Nabokov, even Hunter S. Thompson and John Kennedy Toole—give the impression that it's a Frankenstein's monster. Not true. Bonfiglioli's Mortdecai is a true original, and there's nothing quite so hard to describe as that." —Booklist (Starred Review)
"What are the books like? They are darker, stranger and more interesting than any film of them (or at least any film cleared for general release) could be…The novels are extremely funny, first of all. They deal, like Wodehouse, in sentence-by-sentence sparkle, in gestures of grand insouciance. " —Sam Leith, The Guardian