What bliss! Lovejoy is back, in his 21st adventure--and while Jonathan Gash (The Possessions of a Lady, The Rich and the Profane, etc.) might be forgiven if things were getting a bit stale by this point, happily, A Rag, a Bone and a Hank of Hair is anything but dull. This latest adventure sends Lovejoy, an antiques dealer and sometime forger with a gift for sensing genuine articles from fake, trawling the London markets from Camden Passage to Portobello, in order to find out who's passed dud gemstones to Dosh Callaghan. But after stopping to say hello to his old friends Arthur and Colette Goldhorn, he finds that their antiques shop has been commandeered by the unspeakable Dieter Gluck, a suave thug with muscular friends. Arthur is dead, Colette is on the street, and their son Mortimer has mysteriously disappeared. When Lovejoy sets out to save the day, he finds out that conning a con can be a dangerous proposition, and he'll need every ounce of trickiness to keep more corpses from appearing: "These markets look the soul of innocence, street barrows lined up under merry bunting. In fact they can be scary, while seeming the friendliest places on earth. You've been warned. Much good warnings ever do, though. When greed and antiques meet everybody ignores warnings."
As usual, Gash peppers his pages with a glorious assortment of supporting characters (i.e., accomplices): meet Lydia, Lovejoy's prim and proper apprentice; Tinker, a phlegmatic burglar with a powerful thirst; and Trout, a midget who specializes in Tarzan sing-o-grams. But Lovejoy's voice is the real delight; he is anxious to educate his readers in all manner of antiques arcana--the importance of using real vellum in faking Renaissance miniatures; the history of the great Dogon mask fraud; how to forge scholarly impressions of Roman coins with a bit of isinglass and ochre. His lectures and wry meditations on the foibles of humanity are delivered with the mix of wide-eyed amazement and effortless humor that Gash's readers have come to appreciate and expect. A Rag, a Bone and a Hank of Hair will have Lovejoy fans new and old crying, "Bring on number 22, and hurry, please!" --Kelly Flynn [via]