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Literature / Bridge in the Menagerie

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The Bridge In The Menagerie series is a series of humorous bridge books originally written by Victor Mollo, and continued after his death by Robert and Philip King. The characters in the series are mostly named after animals.

This series contains examples of:

  • The Ace: The Hideous Hog, by far the most successful player in the series. He's also the player most likely to pull off any variety of trick play intentionally and successfully.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Charlie The Chimp - he frequently gets distracted with postmortem analysis of previously played bridge hands. This most often occurs when he should be focusing on his current hand instead.
  • Batman Gambit: Frequently how the Hideous Hog makes contracts over his opponents and defeats the contracts of his opponents, particularly Walter Walrus (who he can guarantee will hold onto sure high card winners to cover other high cards, even if it's obvious that taking certain tricks earlier are the only hope to prevail) and Papa the Greek (who loves falsecarding so much that the Hog even states that the by-the-book play would be a falsecard for Papa).
  • Blatant Lies: Papa's fondness for non-standard play to a trick, to confuse opponents as to the contents of his hand, is well-known to everyone, to the extent that only the weakest of players, such as the Rabbit and Walter, fall for them. It's repeatedly Lampshaded - one opening lead from Papa is described as "the closest falsecard to his thumb," the Hog notes that the by-the-book play would count as a falsecard from Papa, and he's once described as the kind of person who'd try to falsecard from a singleton.
  • Born Lucky: The Rueful Rabbit; his results are way better than his lack of skill present. One common habit is playing the wrong card to a trick, throwing off his opponents' count of the hand.
  • Born Unlucky: Karapet - his style of play actually takes into account that his suits will split poorly, his finesses will fail, and all probability plays will work out in the most unfavorable fashion.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: The first book has a number of apparent club regulars who never appear again, such as the Doctor and the Keyhole Manufacturer.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Colin the Corgi. It was even Lampshaded at one point, where he was noted as being uncharacteristically charitable to a player in one of his stories - at which point Colin revealed that he was the player in question.
  • The Eeyore: Karapet the Free Armenian, who is convinced that all his bad luck is due to a Hereditary Curse placed on the Djoulikyans in the fourteenth century by the black witch of Ararat.
  • The Fool: Rueful Rabbit - unable to keep straight the standard recommended plays, or even what conventions to bid half the time, and more than capable of mixing up which cards he even holds or which card he meant to play... and yet, after the Hog (his most frequent partner), the most successful player in the series.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: The Hog once again, who has precious little patience for partners who make questionable moves. The only way of mollifying him is to somehow overcome the blunder (frequently by inducing worse blunders from the opposition).
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: If Papa and the Hog are opposing each other, the two quickly get into a cycle of trying to outdo each other in both theatrics and card play (with the suggestions that the theatrics are triggered by card play, with the possibility of such theatrics encouraging even more outrageous cardplay). It's small wonder that hands between the two are frequent subjects.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Frequently by the Secretary Bird, who will always insist on the by-the-book penalties for straying from the standard play. If his opposing partnership is the Rabbit and the Hog, it can practically be guaranteed - the "penalty" will frequently end up guiding the only way that the opposing pair can make or break (depending on if they're declaring or defending) the contract.
  • Informed Ability and Informed Flaw: The various win/loss records of the actual hands shown only sometimes lines up with what the narrator describes within the club. The text declares the Rueful Rabbit as one of the lowest-ranked players in the club, while Papa the Greek is one of the highest-ranked players. Of the shown hands, however, the Rabbit's win percentage is remarkably high, while Papa's is abysmal.
  • Insufferable Genius: The Hideous Hog, who is the best player in the club, and never tires of letting everyone know it.
  • Jerkass: The Hideous Hog is petty and cruel to opponents, dismissive of partners, and he has a habit of just grabbing whatever he wants and leaving the bill for others. Colin the Corgi generally isn't opening his mouth unless it's to be snide about someone.
  • Kansas City Shuffle: The Hog's general strategy for playing against Papa. Papa and the Hog know all of the same techniques for both bidding and play. The Hog's advantage over Papa is that he can confuse Papa as to which technique he'll use. It only occasionally comes up in the bidding, but it's a regular feature in the play of the hand itself between the two.
  • Karma Houdini: The Hideous Hog somehow is never punished for his various rule violations - at the very least, several of his hands should have the results vacated, if not him being suspended from play for some of his more outrageous abuses.
  • Large Ham: Karapet enjoys bemoaning his results and his poor fortune at every turn, loudly and repeatedly. He'll even do this when analysis shows that the most common split of cards, that which is the least involving of luck, is what played out.
    • The Hog, of course — figuratively and literally.
    • Papa the Greek is not subtle by any means, but the knowledge that he has kibitzers drives up his theatrics (both in terms of plays and in his table talk) to Shatnerian levels. It's noted several times that he's more interested in impressing onlookers than actually winning hands.
  • Medal of Dishonor: One that comes up in the later books are Monster Points, meant to be the inverse of Master Points that duplicate players receive for success at events. The hands responsible are laid out so that some of the more ridiculous miscues can be shown for instructional purposes. Nominations come from others at the table; at least one instance involved all four players being nominated (though as the hand involved, among other things, Papa falling for a Kansas City Shuffle again, some of it was clearly sour grapes).
  • No Sense of Humor: The Secretary Bird. His default expression is a scowl, and he never appreciates any jibe, regardless of whether it's directed at him.
  • Not Cheating Unless You Get Caught: Particularly in earlier hands, the Hog is not above various levels of chicanery (including deliberate revealing of cards or directing declarer's play of dummy) in order to guide play of the hand by one of the other participants. He frequently has a lame excuse for his actions, and he's a bit of a Karma Houdini with them.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: The Emeritus Professor of Bio-Sophistry, more commonly known as the Secretary Bird. A stickler for the Laws of the game, sometimes verging on Lawful Stupid.
  • Rules Lawyer: Walter the Walrus, of sorts. He's very attentive to the "truisms" of the quality of hands and relies heavily on various maxims of play, regardless of whether indications from bidding and play suggest a different course of action. He'll heavily complain when "inferior quality" hands produce outsized results. More strictly the Secretary Bird, who will enforce the rule book regarding infractions... more than once ruining his chances at winning a hand in doing so.
  • Side Bet: The focus of the action is, naturally for a collection of bridge columns, the bridge hands themselves. However, it's frequent that various bets (usually bottles of wine) will be riding on the outcome of a hand or a series of hands. Some of the odder bidding sequences come from bids that would ordinarily be unorthodox but are made to attempt to secure one of these bets.
  • "Stop Having Fun" Guys: In-Universe, a regular accusation about the Secretary Bird, who is frequently the Hog's nemesis.
  • Straw Feminist: Molly the Mule, who insists on a man's being to blame for everything.
  • That Liar Lies: The Rabbit's frequent justification for why he doesn't play the way Papa suggests he play when the two go against each other. He might not know what he should do, but given that Themistocles is proud to admit his own deviousness at the table (to a fault, even), the Rabbit knows that what Papa's cards suggest are what he shouldn't do. For all that Papa tends to rail against the "ridiculous" plays resulting from this, it's perhaps the most logical and legitimately clever move the Rabbit pulls.
  • Too Clever by Half: Themistocles Papadopolous, aka "Papa the Greek". His results do not live up to his brilliance. One chapter in one of the books, which featured Papa repeatedly falling for the Kansas City Shuffle, is even titled this.
  • Too Dumb to Fool: The Rueful Rabbit manages to pull this off in all sorts of spectacular fashions. Maybe he'll completely ignore a falsecard or other deceptive play. Maybe he'll fall for it, but accidentally play the "wrong" card anyway. Maybe he'll fall for it, but get a different wrong inference than the one originally intended, which ends up guiding him to the right play. Regardless, his inability to correctly gauge deceptive plays helps him way more often than it hurts him. This goes up to eleven when Papa the Greek is the one attempting to fool him.
  • The Watcher: Oscar the Owl, "Senior Kibitzer" of the club. Seldom if ever plays, but loves to watch everyone else play. Appearing less frequently is the Peregrine Penguin, who similarly prefers to kibitz at the Unicorn Club (which prefers duplicate bridge to the Griffin Club's rubber bridge).
  • Yes-Man: Timothy the Toucan; he knows he lacks talent, so he tends to suck up to partners to ingratiate himself.