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A RAG, A BONE AND A HANK OF HAIR


by Jonathan Gash
Penguin Books (pbk.) 1999

Reviewed by Shirley H. Wetzel

Wotcher, mate! Lovejoy (does anybody know his first name?), that randy, cocky, situationally honest British antiques dealer, is back again, enlisting a motley and colorful gang of friends, colleagues, and a few foes to plan a caper of gigantic proportions.

The plot, as well as I can figure out, is that after he uses his almost magical abilities to discover the rare gems a fellow dealer had purchased were fakes, the friend hires him to go to London and figure out what happened to the real ones. At least, that's why he thinks he's sent there. He soon learns that his friend Arthur Goldhorn, the lord of Saffron Fields, has died, and his wife Colette, an old and very close friend of Lovejoy's, has been reduced to bag lady status after being cheated of their property and antiques shop by the nefarious foreigner, Dieter Gluck. Dieter, however, overlooked a few details in his plan to become a respectable member of British landowning gentry. Arthur and Collette had a son (or at least Colette did, and Arthur claimed him), the mysterious wood sprite Mortimer, who holds claim to the title and the most valuable part of the family land and possessions. To save his life and land and avenge Arthur's death and Colette's downfall, Lovejoy crafts an intricate plan which involves the skills of various forgers, thieves, noble ladies and gents, and other reprobates and loveable scoundrels, all part of the tangled web that makes up the English antiques world.

This is not a book for leisurely, mindless reading. If you're not at least somewhat familiar with British slang in its various forms, you'll be lost in no time. I found myself having to go back and re-read pages several times when the plot got too raveled to follow without a road map.

The background on the antiques business is fascinating, but after reading what Lovejoy has to say about its rampant dishonesty I'd hesitate to put big money into an antique purchase. Surely it's not as crooked as all that! I've read other Lovejoy mysteries, and I think I've usually liked them, but I don't remember the others being quite this difficult to follow. I do enjoy some of his clever asides and bits of British history, and his tips for making certain purchases, but hasn't he heard of safe sex?

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