Title: The Grassleyes Mystery
Author: E. Phillips Oppenheim
First published in 1940
My first book for #1940 club hosted by Simon and Kaggsy is The Grassleyes Mystery by E. Phillips Oppenheim.
I downloaded the whole collection of books by Oppenheim from Kindle store a couple of years ago. I never got to reading it until now. Ahem. 😉 If you think I am being too bold to confess this here, then let me ask you – how many books do you have pending in your TBR/bookshelf? Tell me, tell me…
Here’s a short gist of what the story is all about: When David Granet asks for a place to stay “within a twenty-mile radius of either Nice or Cannes”, he does not anticipate the trouble that he finds at the Manoir of Lady Grassleyes. The Lady of the manor is dead when he arrives, and the will is disputed. Granet gets himself drawn into an ugly dispute between the estate agent and Lady Grassleyes’ niece. At stake is the land, the fortune, and a mysterious wealth in botanical formulas.
At times I find it difficult to follow the writing style of few authors from 1920-40s. I remember having trouble following Allingham’s writing – maybe I still do. But this wasn’t the case when it came to Oppenheim’s writing.
The mystery is pretty straightforward. David Granet is in need of an accommodation in the country. He wants to be in a peaceful setting, no crowd or noise around. He can manage the house all by himself or with the help of a servant – no issue there. So, the house agents tell him of Lady Grassleyes’ bungalows.
David drives to the manor and asks to see Lady Grassleyes. The half Malayan-half Chinese man (who’s later told be from Burma) who opened the door asks David to wait while he tells his mistress about the guest. David is called in to the room where Lady Grassleyes is to meet him. He finds her sitting at her desk but she’s in no state to have a chat – she’s either unconscious or dead.
The police, doctor and nurses are called in, and Lady Grassleyes is taken away. As David goes back to his car, the Lady’s niece calls him out. She wants him to rent the bungalow right away – she doesn’t feel safe and maybe David’s presence might make her feel better.
David drives back to the house agents to tell them he’s taken the bungalow for rent. But Spencer, the owner of the agency, says that’s not possible as Lady Grassleyes is dead (he heard the news that same afternoon) and he’s in charge of the rental proceedings. But David is adamant – he says he’s already paid for it so he will be staying.
That same evening, David returns to Grassleyes manor, and so does Spencer. David meets the sister of a famous singer (who’s occupied one of the bungalows) and she too feels there’s something sinister going around. Spencer creates quite a scene, trying to manipulate and control Jane Grassleyes (the niece) and tells her he’s the co-executor of Lady Grassleyes’ will.
He forces Jane to give him the key to the safe, but Jane doesn’t give in. David interferes and Spencer runs away – with a few torn pages from the estate ledger. Spencer comes back the next day, and the day after, becoming a pain in the back to Jane as well as the murder investigation.
It is made pretty clear to the reader that Spencer is a bad character. His wanting to control and manipulate Jane was very annoying – there were times when I felt he deserved a slap or two to bring him back to his senses.
The two Burmese house helps/brother – Postralli and Pooralli – were interesting characters. They are of the tribe half-Malayan, half-Chinese called ‘The Running Footmen.’ As the story proceeds, we see the two brothers play a significant role in the story. There’s also a scene where Spencer becomes too much of a menace and one of the brothers shows Spencer his place. (Quite a humorous scene this.)
The story has an unexpected twist halfway through. I cannot give you the details without making this review a spoiler. But it has something to do with Lady Grassleyes. This aforementioned twist takes the mystery to a whole new direction and in my opinion, this is what made the story interesting.
I loved the ending. While the mystery behind the ‘natural death or accident’ kept me guessing, Spencer’s antics made me angry. At the end, he got what he deserved so all’s well when he falls in the well, right?
This is my first book by Oppenheim but definitely won’t be the last. Have you read any mysteries written by E. Phillips Oppenheim? Have you read this book? What are your thoughts on it?
I am so glad that you have started reading Oppenheim. I have read a few of his, including this, which I didn’t enjoy as much as you did. Here are my thoughts on it: https://ahotcupofpleasureagain.wordpress.com/2020/12/30/five-mysteries-of-1940/
I found it a bit funny that the girls were all over David – like, they felt helpless without him. Haha. But apart from this, the story was good. The ‘murder’ and body disappearing from the hospital (and the resurrection *wink*) was interesting.
I also plan to read Scream in Soho (from your list) for the challenge.
Sounds most entertaining and a great choice for 1940. I’ve not read Oppenheim but must add him to the wishlist!
Thank you 🙂
I hope you too enjoy his books.
This sounds like a fascinating mystery – I’m glad you enjoyed it! I can recommend The Great Impersonation by Oppenheim, but I haven’t read any of his others.
Thank you for the recommendation, Helen. 🙂
I haven’t read Oppenheim yet but this does sound very entertaining. Will try him soon.
He’s written a couple of spy thrillers. I found a mention in One, Two, Buckle My Shoe by Christie.