Just Finished: The Vesuvius Club by Mark Gatiss, 2004, 0743283945
I reserved this from Watertown after reading a review for a second, upcoming book with the same lead character. That character, Lucifer Box, is a young portraitist for the rich who doubles as an assassin and spy for the British government. He also screws hookers in "slimy alleys", "takes advantage" of young society ladies, takes hours to get dressed, lives next door to the Prime Minister in No. 9 Downing Street, and digs dudes. That last feature of his personality is what got him his current position with the government after an old family friend blackmailed him into the job.
Box is told to investigate the disappearance of several British scientists and the death of a diplomatic officer based in Naples, Italy. Lucifer fends off an assassination attempt during a carriage chase in foggy London, fights an angry father in a Bath house, and saves Italy from volcanic chain reaction by a revenge obsessed transvestite. All the while he chases after a redheaded lady art student and bones (gets boned by?) an expatriate English dude.
This novel reminded me of pulp westerns. The quick pacing, overall lack of historical detail, and sexual endeavors all struck the same note. The novel was pretty good though. Fun characters and fun story. The concept is interesting too, with Lucifer loving the secretive nature of his double life.