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I'm beginning to get the hang of the Lovejoy books now: a richly described and usually mildly exotic setting; an utterly convoluted and insane plot (as in conspiracy); a moderately convoluted and insane plot (as in storyline); lots of antiques lore injected into the text with varying degrees of randomness; and many many women competing to get into our hero's bed (though the sex is never very explicit). It's quite a different Lovejoy from the TV series - younger, randier and frankly more criminal. It helps me get to sleep at night reading a few pages before lights out. (At least I think so; will continue the experiment for the five Lovejoy books still on the shelves.)

The Very Last Gambado is about a criminal raid on the British Museum, disguised as a movie about a raid on the British Museum (which is this book's lovingly described exotic venue). It was written some way into Lovejoy's TV appearances, and one wonders if the dissolute and past-it male lead was - no, never mind, that's unfair. But there are a lot of interesting observations about the madness of a film set, particularly involving stunt men, and the thought experiment of trying to raid the British Museum is an intriguing one; anyone who knows that corner of London at all well will end up scratching their heads at the complexity of the problem.

Meanwhile we do also get a fair bit of Lovejoy on his home ground in East Anglia, fighting off amorous women with varying degrees of failure, and encountering a forger's workshop located on a second-hand bus, which is an arresting image. And I'm glad to report that our hero has acquired two new budgies after the awful fate of the ones in Gold from Gemini.

This book also has a moment which makes the classification of the series as non-genre rather than fantasy very difficult. Lovejoy is a "divvy"; he has an astonishing ability to tell real antiques from fakes. One can usually handwave this away as well-honed observational skills and intuition - I can look at a tray of objects and guess how many there are to within 15-20%; I used to be able to date a medieval manuscript to the correct half-century at a glance; Lovejoy's skill as an extension of that sort of thing seems OK. But here, Lovejoy actually detects a genuine antique within a sealed container, unable to see it, but it makes his heart beat faster just to be near it. It's not all that important to the plot (well, it might be, but I had some difficulty following) so I will still classify The Very Last Gambado as non-genre in my end-of-month and end-of-year tallies. But I have a lingering doubt.

The internal chronology of the Lovejoy books must be pretty convoluted. This one was published between Jade Woman and The Great California Game, but cannot be set between them as one flows directly from the other via a trans-Pacific plane flight (which would not normally include East Anglia or the British Museum). It cannot even be immediately before Jade Woman, as Lovejoy's sort-of primary partner here is Lydia, whereas at the start of Jade Woman it is Jane, and nor can it be immediately after The Great California Game which ends with Lovejoy still in America and still entangled with Jane. I suspect that The Very Last Gambado may be a jump back to an earlier point in the timeline. I will keep an open mind.

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