Leave It to Psmith by P. G. Wodehouse (1923) is my second foray into the adventures at Blandings Castle. This one follows the intrepid Psmith--one-time heir to a grand estate which his father heartlessly speculated away; most recently a monger of fish; and now a man of business. What kind of business?
Why, any at all. Just read his advertisement:
Enter Freddie Threepwood. Freddie is in a bit of a hole. He needs cash--a bit too fond of the ponies, he has already gone through his quarterly allowance and needs a bit more to get him by. Not to mention he'd like to marry this girl. He also discovers that his uncle would like to find a way to get some of his own money out from under the formidable thumb of his wife. Thus, Freddie hatches a plan that they should "steal" his aunt's diamond necklace (although, "if a husband pinches anything from a wife, it isn't stealing. That's law. I found that out from a movie I saw in town."). Then Uncle will "pretend" that he will buy a new one, use the money for his own purposes and give some to Freddie, have the jewels reset and present the "new" necklace to Auntie, and everbody will be happy. Freddy assures his uncle that he can do the job, no problem. Then promptly gets cold feet. While trying to warm them up again, he spies the advertisement placed by Psmith. Why, here is the answer to his prayers. And the beginning of all the fun and mayhem to follow.
Because, although he is perfectly willing to steal the necklace as requested, Psmith has plans of his own as well. And what we wind up with is a delightful, comedic romp filled with impersonations, misunderstandings, pretty wit, a bit of romance, and midnight wanderings through the Castle. I begin to think that no Blandings Castle story will be complete without the Impeccable Baxter (secretary to the Earl of Emsworth, lord & master of the castle) or someone very like him doing immensely odd things in the middle of the night. Not to be missed this time is Baxter's jaunt through the garden at midnight in lemon yellow pajamas with a grand finale that consists of chucking flower pots through his employer's bedroom window.
If I have any quibble with Wodehouse it is with the number of coincidences that happen and the way he tends to follow the same storyline. Last episode of Blandings Castle, we had a young man entering the Castle in a false persona, having answered a personal ad, and on a mission to steal a priceless scarab. I'm not saying that Wodehouse doesn't do the thing well, but I am quite sure that I will need to space out my readings for the Wodehouse Challenge if I am not to get tired of the formula. Too much of anything, no matter how good, is rarely a good thing. Four stars.