P.G. Wodehouse said of the first Flashman novel that it was ""the goods."" Three decades and 11 ""packets"" of Flashman papers later, Fraser's indomitable Victorian scoundrel remains one of English literature's finest comic creations. This latest installment consists of three short adventures, all taking place in the late 19th century. In the first and longest episode, Flashy attends the Congress of Berlin, crosses paths with his old enemy Bismarck and gets dragged into a complicated plot to save Austria's Emperor Franz-Josef from assassination and Europe from world war. Not all the diplomatic intrigue is scintillating, but Fraser concludes on a strong note, sending Flashy off on yet another doomed military expedition just as he thinks he's home safe at last. Comic reversal figures as well in the second story, centered on a card-cheating scandal involving the prince of Wales, the future Edward VII. The hilarious exchange at the end between Flashman and his dizzy wife, Elspeth, is reminiscent of Bertie and Jeeves in their prime. In the final, title tale, Flashy, disguised as a poor drunk, sneaks into an empty London house to stop a certain Tiger Jack Moran from his evil plot to ravish Flashy's beloved granddaughter, only to find that two men, who look like ""a poet and a bailiff,"" have ambushed the creep already. The deed done, Flashman listens as the ""poet"" makes some deliciously inaccurate deductions about the scruffy, drunk derelict, our hero. Throughout, Flashman alludes to disastrous exploits not yet published (Gordon at Khartoum, Maxmillian in Mexico, etc.). Readers can only hope that Fraser will enjoy the kind of longevity and productivity that defined the distinguished career of his mentor Wodehouse, and continue with this exceptional series. (Aug.) FYI: Fraser has written the screenplays for Richard Lester's The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers, as well as for the James Bond film Octopussy.