cover image All the Tea in China

All the Tea in China

Kyril Bonfiglioli, . . Overlook, $23.95 (258pp) ISBN 978-1-59020-072-8

Bonfiglioli (1928–1985), author of the offbeat Mortdecai trilogy, offers a surfeit of delights in this historical romp, first published in 1978. The novel opens with Karli Van Cleef, a young Dutch Jew of prodigious alimentary and sexual appetites, fleeing the consequences of his unscrupulous romantic life. Karli lands in mid–19th-century London with nothing but his wits and a chest of his mother's fine china, and makes an immediate and considerable success as a porcelain dealer. Lured by the promises of adventure and rich profit offered by the opium trade, however, he quickly closes shop to go east. From here, there are swordfights and treasure, pirates and mutineers, a typhoon, and prostitutes in every port. But if the plot is easily anticipated, Bonfiglioli colors his picaresque with an abundance of wit and narrative verve. Indeed, the novel often reads like an unapologetically bawdy Pirates of the Caribbean . (Aug.)