I have previously really enjoyed '[b:Scoop|30919|Scoop|Evelyn Waugh|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1328007769s/30919.jpg|1001166]', '[b:A Handful of Dust|827814|A Handful of Dust|Evelyn Waugh|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1178733413s/827814.jpg|3115332]', and '[b:Decline and Fall|386414|Decline and Fall|Evelyn Waugh|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1344264736s/386414.jpg|1228767]', and had heard good things about this book. Primarily I had heard that it was very funny. Whilst it certainly has a few moments of laugh out loud hilarity overall I thought it was a somewhat incoherent and inconsistent read.
One of the most striking things for a modern reader is the incessant casual racism that peppers the book. That said it's mainly just racist epithets, although there are a few obvious stereotypes that would have been widely accepted at the time the book was written. Overall though, at heart this is a satirical novel and much of the satire still rings true. The book also powerfully evokes Africa, and specifically the East of the continent where the fictitious island country of Azania is located.
The funniest parts of the book arise from the suspicions on the part of the French about the intentions of the British. The reports that the French receive invariably misinterpret the most innocent activities. There is also a very funny scene involving a couple of animal rights activists who are misconstrued as being in favour of animal cruelty.
Curiously the very best writing occurs right at the end of the book, when the main protagonist, who starts the tale as a shallow socialite, is forced to confront his traumatic experiences, which are brought into sharp relief when he reunites with some "bright young thing" friends.
Overall though I was slightly disappointed and would recommend 'Scoop', 'A Handful Of Dust', and 'Decline & Fall' over this book for a newcomer to Evelyn Waugh's work. Inexplicably I have still to read 'Brideshead Revisited' so cannot say where that fits into his work - though expect that it is very good, and probably another title to read before 'Black Mischief'.