Lord Israel Honerton sits watching his family at the dinner table, his thoughts tinged with melancholy when a servant enters and tells Israel’s eldest son,Cecil, that the gamekeeper John Heggs wants to talk to him regarding the hunting expedition the next day. Cecil, for some reason apprehensive, leaves the table and meets the Keeper who gives him a thorough thrashing (I don’t blame him). Cecil has behaved like a cad towards Heggs’ daughter and impregnated her. In his anger, Heggs throws down Cecil on the stoned floor, fatally.
In the court, though the general feeling is that Heggs be pardoned, Israel bears down with the might of all his wealth and influence (I don’t blame him) and Heggs is sentenced to be executed. However, outside the court, Israel runs into Heggs’ daughter. An Oxford graduate (definitely not a babe in the woods) the girl curses the Honerton family. Shaken by this encounter, Israel passes away that same night.
Years pass and Joseph, another son of Israel, is now the head of the family and the corporate group. Sitting at dinner, both Joseph and his brother Samuel are startled when a servant enters and whispers something to Ernest, Joseph’s eldest son. The keeper has come and wants to discuss about the hunt the next day. It is too much reminiscent of the past but Ernest poohs poohs their fears, excuses himself… and doesn’t return. A search through the house turns into a nation-wide search that doesn’t bear any fruit. Both Joseph and Samuel are distraught but that’s just the beginning. Soon Samuel’s son disappears too and then Joseph too is gone. What could be happening? Where have they disappeared? Has the curse uttered by that wronged woman years ago come true?
When I read the brief summary of the plot of the novel, I was super excited, thinking I had discovered an unknown gem. People disappearing from locked rooms and passing through walls is so much Carr territory and I wondered whether Oppenheim too would come up with a gem of an explanation. Ha! The dunderhead Scotland Yard Inspector and the beautiful daughter of Joseph whose beauty finally makes everything work out fine were enough to put my teeth on edge. Add to it the valorization of the villain…Suffice to say: Stay Away!
First Line: Israel, first Baron Honerton, famous in commercial circles as chairman of the directors of Fernham & Company, Ltd., the great wholesale chemists, Lord of the Manor of Honerton Chase, in Norfolk, sat at the head of the long black oak table in the banqueting hall of the ancient and historic mansion which he had bought, as the auctioneer described it, “lock, stock and barrel”, two years ago.
Publication Details: E-book
First Published: 1926
Source: Faded Page
Have you read anything of Oppenheim’s? Which one would you recommend?