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.