Saki’s second collection of short stories came out six whole years after his first, which is quite a while, especially given how quickly his next few books are going to come out. I was initially not thrilled because I thought that this was going to be another collection of Reginald stories. Thankfully, there’s only one Reginald story here, the titular one. This is really the book where Saki starts to come into his own. You start to really see his pitch-black sense of humor in stories like The Reticence of Lady Anne, the tale of a hen-pecked husband that can’t get his wife to stop with the silent treatment, and The Strategist, in which an boy abused by his cousins contrives to escape their clutches. Sometimes, the stories are silly and not as dark as those two; The Mouse, a story of an awkward encounter in a train car, is pure hilarity and The Sex That Doesn’t Shop is a hilarious rant about the differing shopping habits of men & women. The best is Gabriel-Ernst which introduces one of Saki’s major themes, the conflict between unforgiving nature and the mannered mores of upper-class society. In this story, a landowner discovers a mysterious young boy living in the woods on his estate; no spoilers, but the story is both violent and hilarious. Saki begins working in the vein of the supernatural or at least in the creepy vibe of horror fiction here. Gabriel-Ernest has a couple of really creepy passages; The Soul of Laploshka is a witty riff on the ghost story; and The Saint & the Goblin is based around the conversation of a pair of statues in a church. There are a few duds here, but the stories that are good are very good indeed. I certainly recommend, at the very least, tracking down Gabriel-Ernst, The Strategist & The Mouse; again, these are very short stories, none over four pages, I’d say. Saki’s picking up steam. 3 stars.
tl;dr – short story author improves markedly in second book; the tone is darker, the humor both funnier and more misanthropic; clever twists, good jokes and cynicism work to Saki’s benefit. 3 stars.