FLASHMAN AND THE TIGER consists of a novella and two novelettes. Numerous critics claim this book is a minor effort by George MacDonald Fraser because it is not a novel. Critics are often wrong and in the case of TIGER they most certainly are. Every one of Fraser's shorter Flashman works are better than some of his novel-length adventures. Flashy thrives in the short form and I'll explain why I think so.
Most importantly, Fraser didn’t have to pad any of his shorter works with extraneous detail that bog down at least three of his Flashman novels. In those the seams of their construction are glaringly apparent and divide the books into three distinct chunks, and not beginning, middle and end chunks either. Characters and plotlines early in the story just disappear from the narrative and new ones take over as Fraser moves Flashy from one locale to another in order to shoehorn him into different historical situations or battles. To smooth out such disjointed event timelines Fraser was forced to kill time by inserting painfully long passages of description or compelling Flashman and ancillary characters to twiddle their thumbs waiting for the action to start. Or both! That disrupts the traditional form of a novel by creating a jagged uneven narration, and those three Flashman novels (Great Game, Dragon & Angel of the Lord) suffer greatly for this. These unintended writerly side effects don't ruin those particular books, but certainly weaken them in contrast with others in the series. The worst example occurs in the Angel of the Lord volume during Flashy's participation with John Brown at Harpers Ferry: Flashman and others hang around in a barn almost 150 boring pages.
On the other hand one of the very best Flashman books (Redskins) is two novellas separated by more than a quarter of a century---yet they fit together perfectly for reasons I won't spoil for those who haven't read them. The two halves of Redskins form a truly classic novel although that is not apparent until its final pages.
Published in 1999, FLASHMAN AND THE TIGER's three tales are unconnected stories, but all are original and nuanced situations that stand well on their own. The novella 'The Road to Charing Cross' is as good as either of the novellas in Redskins; Charing Cross has a tremendous climax and amusing denouement. Next, the novelette 'The Subtleties of Baccarat' is also a fine addition to Flashy's canon despite the lack of physical action and lower body count than most Flashman stories. Finally, the title story of this collection is also excellent, serialized originally in the Daily Express during September and October 1975. This explains why Arthur Barbosa's wonderful cover painting depicting Sherlock Holmes & Dr. Watson alongside a prostrate Flashy adorns some editions of this book, surfacing four years after the painter's death. Fraser and Barbosa were friends, the Fraser family owns most of Barbosa's orginal Flashman paintings, and he had produced this one long before the 'Flashman and the Tiger' story appeared between the covers of a book. Why the 1975 serialization is not noted in any edition of FLASHMAN AND THE TIGER is a mystery to me. The novelette was written early in Flashman's heyday, the same year Flashman in the Great Game was published.
For those reasons I believe FLASHMAN AND THE TIGER stands among the very best in George MacDonald Fraser's distinguished Flashman oeuvre.