#1929 Club: The Treasure House of Martin Hews by E. Phillips Oppenheim

Major Henry Owston, demobbed, without any job or financial security and definitely bitter is counting his last pennies when he reaches Breezeley Mansion, a sinister looking mansion somewhere in the backwaters. Carrying a letter of introduction and his last hopes, he presents himself before wheelchair user Martin Hews, the master of the house. Hews surprises him both by telling his (Owston’s) biographical details as also performing with his motorised wheelchair, which makes him extremely mobile. Hews is a connoisseur and collector of art and has little respect for the law when he wants a particular antique. For this he has an entire army of people working for him which includes policemen, secret service agents, lawyers, respectable dealers and street thugs.

It is to escort one of those street thugs, Jim Donkin, to safety that is the first job undertaken by Owsten. It seems Hews wanted a clash between the gangs led by Donkin and his rival Joseph so as to divert the police’s attention. However, the gang warfare got out of hand and Donkin had to kill a person in order to escape with his mistress, Rachel, who was earlier the mistress of Joseph. Now Donkin has to get out of the country but before doing so he entrusts Rachel to the custody of Hews requesting him to keep her safe till he returns. Joseph, however, who has an axe to grind with Hews, does not take it lying down. There is an attack by Joseph’s gang on Hews’ house which is heavily guarded not only by men but by electrical wirings, gadgets and so on. Joseph’s gang has to retreat but in the night the electricity disappears and Hews becomes a weak, vulnerable man on wheelchair. And all this on the first day itself!

How long can Owston protect Hews from the attacks of the mysterious Joseph whose face is always masked or disguised? Perhaps he should have followed the advice of Beatrice, Hews’ niece and secretary, and refused the job in the first place.

This is a fast-paced book which kept me fairly engrossed. The identity of Joseph, who is a master of disguise and as much at ease in the West End as the East End of London, is an interesting hook. Owston is a likeable hero and his rivalry with Joseph and friendship with Bloor, the Scotland Yard detective is well written. I have a few quibbles with the ending of the book where a revelation seems to come out of nowhere and then is not elaborated upon. I would have much preferred a different ending but perhaps toffs and girls of slums and alleys do not mix. However, the image that is going to stay with me is that of a man executing a perfect dance in his wheelchair. That moment was so lively and lovely.

If you want to start with Oppenheim, this is a good place to begin.

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First Line: In a fit of utter dejection, I stopped in the middle of a long cinder path and looked miserably around me.

Publication Details: 1929. Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1929.

Page: 266

Source: Faded Page

Other books read of the same author: (Among others) Judy of Bunter’s Buildings

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Submitted for the #1929 Club co-hosted by Simon @ Stuck in a Book and Karen @ Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings.

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23 thoughts on “#1929 Club: The Treasure House of Martin Hews by E. Phillips Oppenheim

  1. This does sound interesting, Neeru. And now I have a real mental picture of someone dancing in his wheelchair, which is great. I know what you mean about ‘out of nowhere’ endings, but I’m glad you thought the book was, overall, worth reading and that it held your attention.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That scene really stood out, Margot. That point in the end was totally out of the blue and then when you wanted the questions answered regarding it, the author clamed up. It did make me wonder though whether Oppenheim had a different ending in mind and made the switch only because of his readership. At times, one really wants to know an author’s mind while s/he was writing a particular text.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Welcome to the blog. Oppenheim can be pretty boring but this turned out to be very entertaining so you could start with this. Faded Page is really lovely and I love their direct to kindle feature. It has a sister site too: Project Gutenberg Canada. You could explore that too.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been wanting to read Oppenheim & downloaded a few from Gutenberg, but have been a little overwhelmed where to start. So maybe this will be it!

    I didn’t know about Faded Page. It looks pretty great.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is very entertaining, Reese, so yes I’d recommend starting with this though my favourite of his read so far is The Strange Boarders of Palace Crescent. Faded Page is a lovely site and I have downloaded many books from there. They have recently introduced a direct-to-kindle feature which works like a dream. It has a sister-site too: Project Gutenberg Canada. You could explore that too though the books are more or less the same. Unfortunately, Canada which used to have a life+50 years copyright law has changed it under pressure from the US. I don’t know how many books we will get before the December deadline.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I still haven’t read anything by E. Phillips Oppenheim. This book does sound interesting and I have never heard of it before. I got a very inexpensive Kindle version and I will try it.

    Liked by 1 person

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