A best-selling author of novels, short stories, magazine articles, translations, and plays, Oppenheim published over 150 books.
He is considered one of the originators of the thriller genre, his novels also range from spy thrillers to romance, but all have an undertone of intrigue. He also wrote under the name of Anthony Partridge.
'The Evil Shepherd' begins - Francis Ledsam, alert, well-satisfied with himself and the world, the echo of a little buzz of congratulations still in his ears, paused on the steps of the modern Temple of Justice to light a cigarette before calling for a taxi to take him to his club.
Visions of a whisky and soda-his throat was a little parched-and a rubber of easygoing bridge at his favorite table, were already before his eyes. A woman who had followed him from the Court touched him on the shoulder.
A freebie book courtesy of Project Gutenberg for my 1922 contribution to Past Offences – Crimes of the Century meme. See what others have read for 1922 here.
Francis Ledsam is a defence barrister and is congratulating himself on a brilliant performance which has just seen Oliver Hilditch acquitted of murder. His ego is pricked by Margaret Hilditch confessing to him that Hilditch was guilty. The man himself boasts of it to Ledsam a day or two later.
Cue moral crisis and a vow never to defend anyone again unless he is sure of their innocence.
Hilditch himself then dies and Ledsam believes he perjures himself in giving evidence at the inquest. He believes Margaret has killed her husband. Margaret is withdrawn and indifferent towards life, taking advantage of the things money can provide her, but enjoying none of them. Ledsam feels the stirring of an attraction.
We then cross paths with Sir Timothy Brast, who openly mocks Francis when he declares war on criminals….”I am not going to be content with a negative position as regards evildoers. I am going to set my heel on as many of the human vermin of this city as I can find.” Brast is Margaret Hilditch’s father. After an argument of sorts, Brast prophesises that within a few yards of the bar they are in, later tonight a crime will be committed.
As if by magic, a murder occurs and Ledsam factoring in Brast’s seedy reputation on some quarters…..he’s murdered someone abroad, he holds lavish orgies at the walled mansion on the banks of the river…. gets it into his head that Brast is a criminal mastermind.
While still pursuing Margaret, we obviously cross paths frequently with Brast during the course of the book. Both men enjoy each other’s company but are mistrustful. Margaret herself has a strained relationship with her father. Ledsam is determined to catch Sir Timothy out and in cahoots with a detective endeavours to spy on Brast. Brast is more amused than outraged.
Gradually we uncover Brast’s secrets and Ledsam overcomes Margaret’s indifference and opens her eyes to true love. Brast, Margaret and Francis are all reconciled and walk off into the sunset together; Brast on the arms of Lady Cynthia – 20 years his younger and soon to be Margaret’s step-mother. We all live happily ever after.
Can you enjoy a book that is total nonsense? Hmm…probably. I quite liked this and a fair bit more than I expected to.
3 from 5
I’m probably not going to rush to read Oppenheim’s 149 other books, irrespective of whether they are all free or not, but I do have The Great Impersonation waiting somewhere.
I got my copy at Project Gutenberg link here.