Lucia Triumphant by Tom Holt (Macmillan, £9.95).
TOM HOLT, infant prodigy, classical scholar, and now (according to his publicity puff) trainee solicitor, has produced another delightful pastiche of Benson's Mapp and Lucia novels, continuing the adventures of everyday Tilling folk.
This new work, a sequel to the popular Lucia in Wartime, will be as much a joy to the Bensonites at whom it's aimed, as it will be confusing and (to use an expression favoured by Georgie Pillson) "tar'some" to those who don't share the obsession. E F Benson's canvas is the petty rivalry of two, equally unlikeable middle-aged women in a small Kent village. Elizabeth Mapp-Flint and Lucia Pinson fight it out for social superiority in a battle whose weapons vary from book to book and whose only constant is the victory (though sometimes ironically mitigated) of Lucia.
In Lucia Triumphant, one of the weapons used in the combat is "monopoly", and one can't escape the impression that the format of the books, both the originals and Holt's accomplished sequels, has many of the characteristics of one of the more sophisticated and bitchy of the Christmas board games.
Tom Holt, the author, is pictured inside the dust jacket in waistcoat and shirtsleeves, brandishing a fearsome pipe. At the age of 24, these are all tell-tale signs that he is a "Young Fogey". Though one is reluctant to argue ad hominem, 1 suspect that the book will find its largest market amongst readers of the popular news magazine The Spectator.
The reviewer is a producer with BBC TV,