This first novel moves between the present day and England a few years before the Second World War. Kevin, a collector of Nazi memorabilia and the sufferer of a very unpleasant medical condition, is sucked into a dangerous adventure, as he tries to unravel a seventy-year old mystery involving beetles, boxers, eugenics, and fascists.
Among the book's great characters, are an upper-class entomologist, a beautiful but violent Jewish boxer, and a spirited composer of atonal music who longs to escape from her family so she can go to a big city and learn to be witty, ironic, and brittle. Some of these people may not be particularly likeable (although one does warm to Seth 'Sinner' Roach, the boxer) but they are always interesting, and are treated with enough depth that, as well a being repelled, one also feels compassion when faced with their flaws, failings, and delusions.
'Boxer Beetle' displays a great depth of learning and the reader learns about invented languages, anti-Semitism in England and America before the war, and the battle of Cable Street among other things. The recreation of thirties England feels perfect.
In conclusion this book is funny, exciting, and clever; telling its story with confidence and verve, whilst never becoming pretentious or vacuous.