In one of the most bizarre, amusing and complicated plots yet, Bertie finds himself obliged to steal a cow creamer for his aunt from a terrifying judge and his fascist dictator friend, all the while dodging blackmail and uniting two romantic couples. Bertie Wooster and Jeeves return to solve the problems of upper class England in The Code of the Woosters. As usual it consists of the charmingly petty and childish squabbles that tend to characterize Wodehouse's novels - his writing has a charm and purity and innocence that never existed anywhere in real life.
Bertie Wooster is summoned to help his Aunt Dahlia yet again. This time Aunt Dahlia - famously thrifty with her spending despite her wealth, although she goes far over her budget whenever she gets obsessed with something - and her husband Uncle Tom want to buy an antique and valuable collector's edition cow creamer made of solid silver, but the price is too high. To be more accurate, Uncle Tom desperately wants to add the cow creamer to his silver collection, and Aunt Dahlia won't get the shopping money she wants unless Uncle Tom can have his cow creamer. So Aunt Dahlia is determined to get it for him. In a subtle war of self-esteem, Aunt Dahlia tells Bertie to go down to the antique shop and appear to question to cow creamer's legitimacy and value, so as to lower the confidence of the shop owner in his product.
Unknown to Aunt Dahlia, she is not the only person looking at the cow creamer with covetous eyes. A stern, humorless gentleman named Sir Watkyn Bassett is also viewing the cow creamer in the shop, and is actually a magistrate judge who once fined Bertie for stealing a policeman's helmet. He is also the father of the dreamy, spaced out Madeline Bassett, who has just gotten engaged to Bertie's dorky, drunken, extremely nerdy friend Augustus "Gussie" Fink-Nottle. Bertie's bumbling attempts to sneer at the cow creamer actually end up drawing Sir Watkyn's attentioon to it. And Sir Watkyn immediately buys the cow creamer without any negotiation over its price.
This puts Bertie in a very difficult situation. Aunt Dahlia tells Bertie in no uncertain terms that he MUST steal the cow creamer from the Bassett country manor, Totleigh Towers, or else she will deny Bertie the pleasure of dining on her cook Anatole's fabulous food. Things become more desperate when Aunt Dahlia and Bertie learn that Uncle Tom is actually considering trading Anatole to Sir Watkyn in exchange for the cow creamer. This would never do.
Luckily, Fate intervenes with an opportunity for this very ungentlemanly theft. Gussie Fin-Nottle sends Bertie an invitation to Totleigh Towers because he's terrified of making his speech at the wedding breakfast in front of his very intimidating future father-in-law. Bertie foresees a little bit of awkwardness considering that he was also engaged to Madeline Bassett at one time, but goes anyway, taking his valet Jeeves with him. Jeeves is very skeptical about this whole scheme to steal the cow creamer but decides he may as well help out everyone else, starting with Gussie. Jeeves helps soothe Gussie's fears by making him make a list of all the reasons why Sir Watkyn is stupid, laughable, or despicable, such as the way he snores or his table manners, in an effort to make Gussie feel less frightened. Gussie happily writes this down in a notebook and feels much better.
Also present at Totleigh Towers is Sir Watkyn's niece, the strangely-named Stiffy Byng, who wants to marry a middle-class curate named Harold Pinker but does not have her uncle's approval.
Gussie Fink-Nottle's notebook, in which he details all the flaws of Sir Watkyn, goes missing. It turns out that Stiffy found it and read it. After this, Stiffy uses her knowledge gained from the notebook to blackmail Bertie by threatening to end the engagement between Gussie and Madeline (which would send Madeline flying back into Bertie's very reluctant arms) unless Bertie steals the cow creamer and then allows himself to get publicly caught by Harold, which would win Harold favor in Sir Watkyn's eyes. Meanwhile, a guest and friend of Sir Watkyn, Sir Roderick Spode (a fascist type who is very much a satire of Oswald Mosley) has fallen in love with Madeline.
Bertie tries to find an opportunity to steal the cow creamer, but he is constantly being watched by Spode, and never gets a chance. Finally Dahlia arrives and steals the cow creamer herself and orders Bertie to hide it. Bertie is terrified because he knows his room will be the first one to be searched. Jeeves comes up with the solution - he knows that Gussie is getting ready to flee Totleigh Towers because of the missing notebook and his terror at the prospect of Sir Watkyn reading it, so the cow creamer is stashed in Gussie's suitcase. However, it turns out that Harold Pinker went and stole the helmet of a police constable who was annoying Stiffy and hid the helmet in Bertie's room, so when Sir Watkyn finds the helmet, Bertie is arrested anyway.
Jeeves uses Spode to get Bertie off through the use of blackmail. Jeeves belongs to a private club in London for valets to wealthy gentlemen, and the club has a scandalous book in which all the habits, past deeds, personality traits and business interests of employers are written. Spode is in the book, and Jeeves finds out that Spode once made a lot of money by owning a shop that sold women's lingerie. This would be very embarrassing for a man of Spode's standing in Edwardian England. To avoid this coming out, Spode confesses to stealing the helmet, and Bertie is off the hook. Bertie tells Sir Watkyn that the search of his room was abusive and an invasion of privacy, and that he will sue Sir Watkyn unless Sir Watkyn agrees to the dual weddings of Gussie and Madeline, and Harold and Stiffy. Defeated and helpless, Sir Watkyn finally agrees.
And yes, Aunt Dahlia does get the cow creamer. In celebration and acute relief, Bertie agrees to Jeeves long-cherished request to go on a cruise around the world.
Best part of story, including ending:
Once again, the idea of Anatole being traded like chattel (and this time for a cow creamer...really?) absolutely rubbed me the wrong way. On the other hand there were many sweet moments, especially when Jeeves peps up Gussie. And I like Bertie's loyalty to his friends. That is what the title of the novel refers to: always standing by your honorable duty to your friends and never letting them down.
Best scene in story:
The hilarious way Bertie tries to devalue the cow creamer and gets all the details wrong himself, and ends up drawing Watkyn Bassett's attention to it.
Opinion about the main character:
Nothing to dislike. I love his sweetness and amiable nature.