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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Flashman and the Tiger

George MacDonald Fraser

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To purchase Flashman and the Tiger

Title: Flashman and the Tiger
Author: George MacDonald Fraser
Genre: Fiction
Written: 1999
Length: 347 pages
Availability: Flashman and the Tiger - US
Flashman and the Tiger - UK
Flashman and the Tiger - Canada
  • and other extracts from the Flashman Papers
  • "edited and arranged by George MacDonald Fraser"
  • This is the 11th installment of the Flashman Papers
  • Includes:
    • The Road to Charing Cross (1878 and 1883-4)
    • The Subtleties of Baccarat (1890 and 1891)
    • Flashman and the Tiger (1879 and 1894)

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Our Assessment:

B+ : entertaining, clever and fun adventures with Flashman, though the shorter adventures don't have quite the same impact as the more extended ones in the novels

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The New Yorker . 2/10/2000 Tad Friend
The NY Times B+ 9/8/2000 Richard Bernstein
The NY Times Book Rev. B 17/8/2000 Jennifer Reese
Sunday Herald A 10/10/1999 David Stenhouse
Sunday Telegraph A 30/10/1999 Hugh Massingberd
The Washington Post . 23/8/2000 Jon Lellenberg

  Review Consensus:

  Typical Flashman, for better and worse.

  From the Reviews:
  • "The new volume isn't the best of the Flashman books, precisely because of the minor-episode quality to them. Still, it is entertaining and pedagogically valuable. Aficionados will not want to miss it." - Richard Bernstein, The New York Times

  • "This new book is light, clever and comical, yet despite all the swashbuckling and sexual antics, despite the celebrity cast of characters and exotic locations, it is also somewhat tedious." - Jennifer Reese, The New York Times Book Review

  • "MacDonald Fraser's triumph, as ever, is that this book reads as though the fictional characters have been placed among the historical ones, rather than the other way around. In the process he proves, that even if this tale is a little fragmentary, his writing is still more than literature." - David Stenhouse, Sunday Herald

  • "These three new stories in the long-awaited 11th instalment of Flash Harry’s adventures overflow as ever with pithy vignettes that bring history vividly to life. (...) In our crass, humourless, anaemic, politically correct age, there could be no better tonic or treat than the outrageous Flashy’s bold descriptions of action in battle and bedroom (...). To relish George MacDonald Fraser is to rediscover the joy of reading." - Hugh Massingberd, Sunday Telegraph

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Flashman and the Tiger offers three separate Flashman adventures, concentrated around his later years. In the first, The Road to Charing Cross, Flashman is recruited (unwillingly, naturally) to foil an assassination attempt on Austrian emperor Franz Josef. In the second, The Subtleties of Baccarat, he clears up the Tranby Croft affair, a baccarat gambling scandal that involved the Prince of Wales. In the last, Flashman and the Tiger, he is almost driven to murder when his granddaughter and her intended are blackmailed by someone from Flashman's past.
       The first (and by far the longest) story reintroduces Flashman at a leisurely pace (giving the uninitiated some sense of the man and his (dubious but widely hailed) accomplishments. There are references to previous adventures -- and some tantalizing ones to those still unpublished (notably a Mexican adventure where Flashman joins Franz Josef's brother, Emperor Maximilian). The beginning of the story, set in 1878, describes how The Times' noted correspondent Blowitz managed a huge scoop at the Congress of Berlin -- with the help of Flashman and a seductress. Here, for once, is an adventure right up Flashman's alley -- with little danger, a beautiful and willing woman, and with the added benefit that it would annoy an old enemy (Bismarck) greatly. It's a minor little adventure, but Fraser deftly presents the interesting episode.
       It may seem a relatively inconsequential event, but Flashman rarely escapes so easily. Unsurprisingly, a few years later his role in this little affair comes back to haunt him, and he is blackmailed into protecting Franz Josef from an assassination attempt. Old enemies (and seductresses) reappear, and the complicated plan is set into motion. Because of the political implications Franz Josef must not know that he is the target of an assassination attempt, and so Flashman literally stumbles into the Emperor's household to protect him. Nothing, of course, is quite as it seems and Flashman gets drawn into considerably more intrigue (and danger) than he cares for. Flashman does save the day, and though it is not the most dramatic of resolutions in a Flashman-tale it makes for the usual entertaining read, with all the usual entertaining elements (bumbling, cowardice, surprises, shoot-outs and sword fights, and considerably more).
       The Subtleties of Baccarat offers an explanation for an obscure (though at that time notorious) gambling affair. For once Flashman's role is not right in the middle of events, as he tries to determine whether or not Sir William Gordon-Cumming cheated at cards. The affair is recounted, beginning to end (it caused a great uproar, and much bad press for the Prince of Wales), and Flashman does find out exactly what happened -- though perhaps he would rather not have known, and certainly could not reveal it at the time. A minor Flashman episode, but an entertaining little read.
       The third story, though short, is also an ambitious one. "You think twice about committing murder when you're over seventy", Flashman begins this tale. Flashman has killed before ("more than a hundred, easy, I should think -- which ain't a bad tally for a true-blue coward who'd sooner shirk a fight than eat his dinner"), but premeditation was rarely part of the equation. He kills when he has to, but he is not the type to go out of his way to hunt anyone down.
       Here, however, the septuagenarian sees no other possibility: he has to kill Tiger Jack Moran. Flashman and Tiger Jack had both been in South Africa in 1879, at the battle of Isan'lwana (another as yet unpublished Flashman episode to look forward to !), where Flashman had seen what an "ice-cold killing villain" Tiger Jack was. In fact the two had met previously, on a different African adventure, -- though Flashman had forgotten this. Tiger Jack remembers all too well and over the years has gotten his revenge, and now is set to make Flashman suffer too.
       Tiger Jack manages to blackmail Flashman's granddaughter and her intended, and Flashman sees no way out except murder. Some readers might already have guessed what Fraser was up to here (there is also a prominent hint on the cover of the American edition), and it becomes perfectly clear when Flashman's narrative intersects that of the Sherlock Holmes story, The Adventure of the Empty House. Indeed, Holmes and his sidekick, Watson, cross paths with Flashman (allowing for some amusing fun at Holmes' expense), and Flashman gives his version of the final events here. It is a clever little story, small but fun.

       Flashman is more enjoyable in the expansive novels than in these brief sorties (if only because there is more adventure, more sex, more exotic locales -- and more poltroonery !), but these are still agreeable pieces. Fraser's melding of fact and fiction is, as always, practically flawless (and always done to good effect). Many of the episodes -- The Times scoop, or the baccarat scandal -- seem relatively minor, but Fraser makes them come alive. The history alone is fascinating, but, like all the Flashman books, this one is also simply fine entertainment. A master is at work here, and we should be grateful for every volume of these marvelous works.
       May the wait for the next installment not be a long one !

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Flashman and the Tiger: Reviews: Flashman: George MacDonald Fraser: Other Flashman books under review: Other books by George MacDonald Fraser under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • Rafael Sabatini's Captain Blood, which Fraser said he prefers "to Treasure Island or any other pirate fiction".
  • See Index of Contemporary British fiction
  • See Index of Series and Sequels under review

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About the Author:

       English author George MacDonald Fraser was born in 1925. He is most famous for the books in the Flashman series, but has also written numerous other works of fiction and non-fiction.

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