Fraser's Flashman yarns are a guilty pleasure: shamelessly enjoyable, yet utterly reprehensible, like a diet of chocolate creams. Harry Flashman--and this is the ninth volume of his exploits, complete, like the others, with its very real scholarly apparatus of notes and sources--is vain, cowardly, a hypocrite and a sexist lecher. Yet such is the zest and skill with which Fraser relates his adventures that the reader is seldom aware of being thoroughly manipulated into a sneaking admiration for this Victorian soldier of fortune who always finds himself in the thick of things, whether in India, Africa or at Custer's Last Stand; the books are allegedly parts of his memoirs. This time the scene is the Punjab as the outnumbered British forces face a formidable Sikh army. Behind the scenes are a glamorous but corrupt maharani (who is bedded by Flashman), her son and various devious pretenders. Flashman, who speaks the lingo, is acting as secret agent on behalf of the British but somehow always gets involved in battles he seeks to avoid. The atmosphere is colorful in the extreme, the battle scenes are splendidly rendered and some decidedly odd British commanders are deftly sketched. Flashman ultimately emerges with the famous Koh-i-Noor diamond, which he is seen in a delicious prologue discussing with an elderly Queen Victoria. For Flashman fanciers, this is one of his best; for others, an ideal introduction. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/04/1991 Release date: 03/01/1991 Genre: Fiction
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