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The Wrong Box is one of the most darkly funny stories I've ever read. And for it to have been written by Robert Louis Stevenson seems nearly a miracle. Of course Stevenson was far more than the author of "boy's books" like Treasure Island and Kidnapped. (I'm not knocking those: I re-read them nearly every year and wonder anew at their brilliant characters and swashbuckling plots.) He wrote many serious and adult-oriented stories, like The Suicide Club and his South Sea Tales, which I'm only now beginning to read. But nothing prepared me for The Wrong Box.
The humor is as close to the gallows as it can get. Much of the action involves a badly mauled body that keeps getting moved from one container to another. There are cousins, hilariously distinct in personality, who scheme against each other for a large fortune either may inherit (but not both). Or, maybe more accurately, one of them schemes, and the other, a cheerful and high-functioning drunk, counter-schemes in self-defense. It's all played out at breakneck speed and with plot twists worthy of the most over-the-top farce.
Peter Joyce reads it with delightful brio, getting heaps of mileage out of the vividly contrasting characters. I listened to it with great pleasure, and it expanded my awareness of what Stevenson was capable of.
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