(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Jonathan Gash’s popularity as a writer of detective fiction rests primarily with the series of novels featuring the antiques dealer Lovejoy. Plots for the Lovejoy novels usually center on deception, fakery, theft, and murder in the antiques trade, but the particular appeal of the series lies in the charm of their narrator, Lovejoy, and his mine of information about antiques from every period and country. Moreover, he is always willing to interrupt the thread of his narrative to offer a brief lecture on antique dueling pistols or Elizabethan flea-and-louse boxes or how to recognize a genuine antique chair owned by the poet William Wordsworth. He is also informative about creating antique forgeries, probably because he has created so many of them himself. Lovejoy delivers all this information with an appealing combination of technical terminology and dealers’ slang.

Lovejoy’s attitude toward the wheeling and dealing of the antiques world is cheerfully amoral, as is his attitude toward the numerous women who find their way to his bed in the course of the series. Flippant, cynical, cowardly, defensive, and always in need of money, Lovejoy, the complete antihero, is willing to do almost anything to possess a valuable antique provided it sets off the bell in his midsection that is triggered by finding a genuine article. Nevertheless, he is possessed of a fondness for birds and children. The popularity of his novels led to the creation of a British television series during the 1980’s and early 1990’s, but television tamed the Lovejoy character and diluted his gamey vigor.