There is another world, but it is in this one.

Paul Eluard. Œuvres complètes, vol. 1, Gallimard, 1968.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Happily ever after: Sinners Beware by E. Phillips Oppenheim (1932).

Sinners Beware by E. Phillips Oppenheim (1932).

This is another collection of interlinked short stories about the good life in Monte Carlo and Beausoleil. Oppenheim follows three characters through adventures wherein they solve crimes, thwart criminals, and are duped by pros. The style is not as uneven as other collections in this style that I review below, and there is no flagging in authorial inventiveness.

The Café Régal, the Mistral and the Lady
U.S. expatriate Peter Hames meets UK expatriate Sybil Christian. Together they solve the murder of Toby Dachener, barman at the Café Régal.

"Anon. £1000."
"Pontifex," he asked, "what would be your attitude, supposing some anonymous person returned to you that ten thousand pounds in Bank of England notes, a million of francs, and a bundle of bonds?"

The Quarrel
"You mustn't take too much for granted," she warned him, with some asperity in her tone. "I have nothing to promise you except a dinner, for which you will probably pay, but I can perhaps satisfy your curiosity concerning that extraordinary fight. I think even fate owes it to you that you learn the sequel. Whether you will be in at the death, I don't know. We shall see."

The Tiger on the Mountains
Oppenheim introduces a third character into the mix: journalist Paddy Collins, in Europe to drink his way through an inheritance. (The Irish anti-defamation league certainly has a case again Oppenheim with this character).

"You do not understand my race. We love adventure and we love fighting, but if, mingled with it, there comes a chance for a few polite words, a squeeze of the hand, perhaps even a caress, with a young lady as attractive as those two are, it gives us spirit for the fray. There was never a fighting Irishman worth his salt who did not love women."

Paddy Collins Flaps His Wings
"You know that I went to Ireland to look up the old folks, if any of them was left, at Limerick, especially my old Uncle Henry, who had the good sense to be born a whisky distiller."

Peter Hames admitted that he had that much knowledge of his friend's intentions.

"When I got to Limerick—about two o'clock in the afternoon it was—I drove straight to the old address and found myself in the midst of a funeral. Old Uncle Henry—eighty-two he was—had died four days previously and they were in the act of burying the old boy that day. I smartened up as well as I could and drove out to the churchyard, and, as soon as the proceedings were over, a little black-coated man tapped me on the shoulder and invited me up to the house. There was plenty of good stuff going in the dining room—enough to make the wake a properly cheerful affair—but they didn't lead me to it—not at once, that is. They dragged me to the library, to hear the will read. Peter lad, it takes something to knock the stuffing out of me, but as soon as I could see daylight through that gibberish of words, and begin to understand what it was all about, I was like a dazed creature. The old man had left a pot of money and it seems he had but three relatives in the world—myself, his brother, and his brother's child. He left the whole of his money to whichever one of the three who, due notice having been given of his illness, should attend his funeral. Bejabers, I was the only one there!"

"And you hadn't had any notice!" Peter Hames exclaimed.

"The notice had been sent to me, all right, by letter and cable, but it had gone to New York," Paddy Collins explained. "Me turning up on the exact day was just a stroke of luck and nothing else. If I hadn't been present at the funeral, the money would have gone to build another wing to the Limerick Infirmary. I'm feeling I shall make a better use of it."

"And what about your Uncle Henry's brother and his daughter?" Peter Hames asked.

"There was never a mention of them, but I've a word or two to say to you later on, Peter, upon the subject. At present, I'm feeling I must take another glass of that whisky, for I'm what you might call dazed. Two hundred thousand pounds, that's what the old man left, and him making it all out of distilling whisky, when it's a job he should have done for love. I've got a draft for five thousand pounds in my pocket, to be going on with, and a good fat bundle of notes to pay my way until I open a banking account...."

The Imperfect Crime
"Prince," she said, "I want to introduce a friend of mine. Mr. Peter Hames—Prince Krotsky."

The Prince, who had apparently contemplated a tête-à-tête, responded courteously but without enthusiasm.

"We are going in to have a drink," Sybil continued. "Will you join us?"

"With great pleasure. But first of all, Prince, have you noticed that you have lost one of those small but very beautiful turquoises in your ring?"

The Prince raised his shapely hand and glanced at the disaster which had befallen him.

"Bad setting," he murmured. "I bought the stones in Colombo last year and was stupid enough to have them set there."

"Well, you're luckier than you deserve," Peter Hames remarked. "Come with me a yard or two and I'll show you the missing stone."

The Prince agreed, apparently without demur. They walked down the corridor together. When they reached the room with the gendarme stationed outside, however, the Prince stopped suddenly.

"My God," he exclaimed, "that's the room in which poor Dumesnil was murdered!"

What Sir Stephen Forgot
A reboot of a plot similar but inferior to
"The Obstinate Duke" in Crooks in the Sunshine: obstinate UK aristo Sir Stephen  Driscoff refuses to part with stock shares, ends up in the crosshairs of an accomplished U.S. thief. Peter Hames, alas, is no match for the thief. But just wait...

Going, Going, Gone!
Hames helps out a broke local farmer cum artist at a bankruptcy auction. Fans of turning-the-tables auction scenes will lap this up.

The Luckiest Young Man in the World
"You've been winning a great deal of money the last few days, haven't you?" she asked.

"I—yes, I suppose I have," he admitted.

"Do you come to Monte Carlo often?"

"I have never been in France before in my life," he told her.

"Where did you learn to play chemie then?"

"In London."

"I thought it wasn't allowed there."

He grinned.

"If you know the ropes," he assured her, "there's a game every night."

"You play very well," she reflected. "You are also very lucky."

Mademoiselle Anna Disappears
Sybil Christian gets her fill of amateurish attempts to spoke the wheel when the stakes become mortal.

...."I had to kill him," she moaned. "Peter, it was my fault. I should have listened to you."

They were over the frontier by eight o'clock, with a visa on their passports which brought them many salutations. They raced away into Italy. Paddy Collins, from the dickey, leaned over.

"Peter, my lad," he confided, "this is a strange country to me. Do you know of a place near by where perhaps a bottle of whisky might be bought?"

"I'm looking for a place with an English chaplain," Peter Hames replied, "but maybe the two won't be so far apart."

7 March 2018

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