Mr. Mulliner has a wide variety of eclectic relatives, and he’s more than happy to tell snippets of their life stories over a pint at the local pub. From a freewheeling artist brought into line by a judgmental cat to a timid fellow who accidentally subscribes to a correspondence course on how to get a backbone to a private detective with such a disturbing smile that criminals readily confess their hijinks keep the patrons of Angler’s Rest in stitches.
This made it onto my tbr pile thanks to a visit to Harvard Books’ used books and remainders cellar. This was in the remainders pile, and three things drew me to it. 1) It was under $5, 2) The cover has a cat drunk on whiskey on it, 3) I had just read Love Among the Chickens (review) by Wodehouse, which was my first encounter with him, and found him hilarious. Given this trifecta, I couldn’t resist. I’m glad I didn’t, as this short story collection didn’t disappoint.
Don’t worry about this being the third in a series. The only connection among the short stories is the main characters are all a Mulliner (or married to one). It was completely unnecessary to have read the first two books in the series to get into this collection, although I intend now to read all of the Mulliner books. I really appreciated how Wodehouse sets up a structure to hold his short story collection together in one unit. Although they are all self-contained tales, their being together in one collection actually makes sense. They have more in common than just the author. They are literally a family of stories. This helped it hold my interest in a way that many short story collections can’t.
This collection consists of 9 short stories, most of which have some sort of love element. One person wants to be with (or marry) another and must overcome some sort of obstacle (usually caused by British upper-class culture) in order to be with them. Hilarity ensues. My favorite of these was “The Story of Webster,” the cover’s drunk cat. In this a freewheeling artist has his religious uncle drop his cat off with him while he goes on assignment to Africa. The judgmental, sullen cat soon starts to reign in the young artist, much to his and his girlfriend’s chagrin. Everything about this, from the early 20th century fashion and dialogue to the witty commentary on cats and culture works perfectly, particularly for this cat-lover. The story that I thought worked least-well, and unfortunately wraps up the book, is “Gala Night.” A pastor Mulliner accidentally helps a young couple who enjoys dancing to acquire the young woman’s parents’ approval of their union. I didn’t like the religious Mulliner. He just wasn’t funny to me. Similarly the catalyst of a mysterious mood enhancing drink just lacked the creativity found in the other stories. Fortunately, most of the stories fell much closer to the hilarity of the whiskey drinking cat. However, a couple did fall a bit flat for me, which is why while I greatly enjoyed the book, I wouldn’t say I was totally in love with it.
Overall, this is a wonderfully witty collection of short stories held together by an elderly Mulliner who enjoys telling (possibly tall) tales about his family over a pint in the local pub. If you enjoy a dry wit and slapstick humor to top off a cute love story, this collection is for you.
4 out of 5 stars
Source: Harvard Books
Previous Books in Series:
Meet Mr. Mulliner
Mr. Mulliner Speaking