He ain’t no Dickson Carr: E.P. Oppenheim’s The Golden Beast (1926)

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!

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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

Other books read of the same author: The Double Traitor; The Great Impersonation, The Strange Boarders of Palace Crescent

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Have you read anything of Oppenheim’s? Which one would you recommend?

7 thoughts on “He ain’t no Dickson Carr: E.P. Oppenheim’s The Golden Beast (1926)

  1. Thank you for the Oppenheim review! Glad to see someone else reading him, and to read your great reviews since we like so many of the same authors. I have read many of his titles, with The Great Impersonation being my favourite (sorry you didn’t like it so much). I have just purchased Advice Ltd. and A Pulpit In The Grill Room. My favourite Oppenheim has always been The Last Train Out (1940) which I would recommend if you want to give his spy nov els one more try. I also have a copy of (but have not read) And Still I Cheat The Gallows (what an exciting title).

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    1. ‘Great reviews’! Oh Eden you are too kind. Most of the time I just scramble up some sentences. Oppenheim has been very hit and miss. For all the duds like this one and The Double Traitor, there have been books like STRANGE BOARDERS which I love. Even THE GREAT IMPERSONATION was entertaining but had too much of chest-thumping. Though I don’t like his spy fiction, I might give THE LAST TRAIN OUT a look since you rate it so high and I am searching for books published in 1940. You seemed to have purchased some real quaint titles and I will be interested in knowing how the books turn out. Never even heard of AND STILL I CHEAT THE GALLOWS and I agree it’s a great title. Read it quick. I am reading THE MAN WITHOUT NERVES right now and it seems interesting. Have you read it?

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