You could say he is a spy. You could say he is a Bond-like man of the world. You could even say he is a loyal agent of the Queen. But Basil Coventry is so much more. In fact, he is a bumbling, forgetful, drunk, distracted and oft-times totally INEPT spy, Bond-like man of the world and loyal agent to the Queen.
That is exactly what makes novelist James C. Ferguson’s lead character in his hilarious book, Context Clues: A Basil Coventry Misadventure, so enamoring and hard-to-forget. Basil is one of those Inspector Closseau types who never seems to do anything right on a major case, yet always somehow seems to solve the mystery, get his man, and come out alive. How he does it is described in this truly witty and wonderfully descriptive novel that pays homage to every great secret agent man that ever lived, yet serves up an extra dose of fun by making this agent a complete and utter fool.
In fact, the image that comes to mind as I read this engaging mystery was of a blitzed-out-of-his-gourd Sherlock Holmes.
Coventry, you see, has been given a very important assignment, and he sets off to do his duty to God, Queen (Elizabeth I) and country (England, of course) with a sack filled with something important, or so he has been told. Seems he wasn’t paying attention when his superior officer, Reginald Roxbury, explained this new and crucial mission. All he knows is that it has something to do with something about protecting the Royal Court, or something of that nature. Now Coventry is off looking for clues, despite the fact that he doesn’t have a clue as to exactly what kind of clues he is looking for.
As in any good spy novel, he runs into friends and foes along the way and gets buried alive, imprisoned, thrown into a pit with a starving lion, threatened by wild boar, and then there is this prostitute named Rose…oh well, you just have to trust me on this one and read Context Clues. It is one wild and entertaining ride.
Eventually, Coventry figures out what his mission was in the first place, and by then we really don’t care because we are on his side, despite his often cranky nature and his uncanny ability to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, and anxiously awaiting his next faux pas. This is a secret agent who bumbles so often, it’s a wonder he gets anything done, but we come to cheer for him nonetheless, even as he blacks out for the umpteenth time, drunk as a woodland skunk.
I read so many self-published and small press published books that just do not cut it, but this one was a huge surprise. Ferguson writes with skillful comedic flair, and his dialog is sharply hilarious, yet at the same time, subtle. Many of the “jokes” are told with such panache, you actually don’t care if they interrupt the plot flow…in fact, you can’t wait for the next one.
Context Clues is, I hope, only the first in a long line of Basil Coventry adventures - er, misadventures. And if there are any TV or film producers out there scouring these reviews for ideas for new series and films, GRAB THIS ONE QUICK! The casting possibilities are mind-boggling!