The story begins with Timothy Bright, a stock broker by profession. But unlike his name, Tim is rather dimwitted. Problems arise when Timothy realizes that his wealthy family has cut him off, making him not so rich. Poor Timothy cannot fathom why he has been cut off, or why his friends no longer speak with him. He dreams about make it large financially. But unfortunately for him, he does not possess any real acumen to follow through on his dream.
He starts by gambling hoping to make some money. But when it fails (badly), he takes to embezzling. While such large crimes go unnoticed, it is his lesser known acts of notoriety which land him in deep trouble. Dumb as he is, he gets involved with some heavy-breathing thugs. His tiny act of sniffing a strangely aromatic tobacco leads to him getting drugged. But that isn’t surprising for a Sharpe novel. What is bizarre is how drugged Timothy lands up naked in the bed of Chief Constable (CC), Sir Arnold Gonders, with the CC’s wife! Sir Arnold is shown to be a rotten piece of work.
As bent as they come, Chief Constable, Sir Arnold has gotten away with charges of perjury and bribery. After finding a naked Timothy Bright in bed with his wife, Sir Arnold is not afraid to tackle Timothy by framing him for various crimes. Most of the novel revolves around his attempts to dispose of Timothy while also having to deal with his crazy wife and her eccentric lesbian lover, Auntie Bea!!
Where he successfully manages to bring up false charges against Timothy, he meets his match in his old adversary, Miss Marjorie Midden of Middenhall, which was popularly known as “The Midden”. When he tries to frame Miss Midden in a police raid of Middenhall, things start to go very wrong. Once the raid is conducted on the crazy residents of Middenhall, by the police who for some reason are dressed as sheep, things begin to blow up, literally. What follows is death and cremation of a dozen police officials and residents, when the entire Middenhall gets burnt to the ground.
As always Tom Sharpe is blunt and crass, and not afraid to create a plot which is not only unrealistic but completely outrageous. With slapstick situations and scathing humor Sharpe has proven to his audience that 3 decades on, and he still hasn’t lost his touch. But while the story was enjoyable, one can argue that there isn’t much need for the vulgar, depraved scenes or the abusive language towards the finale, especially considering it does nothing to aid the plot or characters in any way.
But crude language aside, one has to hand it to Sharpe for creating and introducing characters who have no real attributes, other than to keep the reader guessing as to whether said character is going to get his due or outsmart his creator. The book stays slow and steady until the last 100 odd pages, which is when the shit hits the roof! Ardent Sharpe fans will enjoy the book in spite of the set manner in which it is written. But to someone who has just picked up Sharpe, this book might not be the best way to get acquainted with his writings or his characters.