Brigadier-General Sir Harry Flashman returns in the twelfth volume of the Flashman Papers. Flashy is a cad, a rogue, a lecher, a toady, and a bully. His reputation for bravery is wholly undeserved, but he has successfully concealed that through an extremely long career, spanning much of the nineteenth century. Flashman reveals all in a series of extremely frank memoirs written in his old age, published long after his death by his "editor", Fraser.
Flashman has many undesirable qualities, but he has a knack for finding himself in the wrong place again and again, and coming up smelling of roses. He survives the Charge of the Light Brigade, the Indian Mutiny, the Battle of Little Big Horn, the Taiping Rebellion, and the Harper’s Ferry Raid. He is an acute and cynical observer, giving an insider’s view of what really happened.
In this book set in 1868, Flashy needs to get out of Trieste one step ahead of an enraged Austrian duke, and agrees to escort half a million in silver to Abyssinia (now known as Ethiopia), where a British force is mounting an expedition to release European captives held by the mad tyrant, Theodore. General Napier prevails upon him to go undercover and head in-country to make an alliance with a neighboring queen, and "once again I was hoist with my undeserved reputation for derring-do, my fraudulent record of desperate service, and once again I couldn’t refuse—not and keep my good name."
Needless to say, he tups several local beauties along the way, callously betraying one of them without a moment’s thought. Somehow, he finds himself holed up in a besieged fort in the final battle as the unwilling guest of Theodore, and comes out the hero of the hour.
As ever, Fraser’s historical research is meticulous. He has a great ear for dialogue and tells a rousing story.
You’ll get more out of this book if you’ve read the others, but it stands well on its own. Recommended.