cover image The Umbrella Man and Other Stories

The Umbrella Man and Other Stories

Roald Dahl. Viking Children's Books, $16.99 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-670-87854-3

As even Dahl's youngest admirers know, the late master writer can slice through the foibles and flaws of human nature with not just uncommon precision but with gleefully wicked, sometimes macabre humor as well. The 13 tales here, all of which previously appeared in collections for adult readers, show Dahl at his merciless best. There is a greedy, adulterous wife who gets a deftly delivered comeuppance; a sly butler who convinces his social-climbing employer to buy only the rarest of wines--which he then secretly consumes with the chef while serving his master a ""cheap and rather odious Spanish red""; and a shady fellow who more than meets his match when, in his customary disguise as a parson, he attempts to bilk a poor farmer out of a near-priceless antique. ""Katina,"" the volume's chilling, exquisitely crafted centerpiece, ends with the senseless death of a golden-haired orphan who had been befriended by kind members of a fighter squadron stationed in Greece during WWII. The tragic thrust of this tale may hit readers hard. While some adults may deem the characters' martini-mixing, wine-sipping, philandering and marital infidelities inappropriate for those on the younger edge of the target audience, this exceptional compendium will thrill anyone in the mood for Dahl's fabled blade-sharp wit. Ages 12-up. (May)