Wednesday, July 23, 2014


By E. Phillips Oppenheim (1866-1946).
Little, Brown & Co.
1916. 302 pages.
By F[rank] Berkeley Smith (1869-1931).
Doubleday, Page & Co.
1916. 324 pages.
Online HERE and HERE.
[Full review] A talent for thievery amounting to positive genius, an urbane exterior, and the most engaging personal qualities constitute the common equipment of the heroes of two otherwise dissimilar novels.
Mr. Smith's Raveau is a Parisian past-master of dishonest arts who falls in love with an innocent country girl, and thereafter, aspiring to become an honest man, is rewarded for his present efforts and his past expertness by employment in the detective service. Shades of Balzac! For its picturesqueness the story depends largely upon contrasting backgrounds—Montmartre and the village of Tourraine. It contains no element of plot, character, or local color that is not already over-familiar.
Mr. Oppenheim relates the exploits of one who enjoyed the reputation of a thief while remaining an honest man. It was an eccentric Western American who enlivened his sojourn in London by the exercise of this questionable skill, and it was an English gentleman of irreproachable respectability who persisted in liking the jovial adventurer, and making love to his charming and equally adventurous daughter.
The humor of being followed around by a detective and searched every little while, to the discredit of the baffled representative of Scotland Yard, never palled upon Mr. Bundercombe, nor upon his dismayed but admiring Mr. Walmsley.
How long this recurring situation will hold a laugh for the reader will depend upon his individual partiality for that classic figure of fun, the triumphant and benevolent joker of farce-comedy. — "Current Fiction," THE NATION (April 20, 1916)

Other reviews of AN AMIABLE CHARLATAN:
[SPOILERS IN REVIEW: Excerpts] . . . The chief figures, the people they consort with, their victims and their friends, they are all crazy.  . . . To the people who like Mr. Oppenheim's stories, this latest book of his will appeal with undiminished force. There is "something doing" on every page and always something mysterious. — Philip G. Hubert, Jr., "Some Novels: Light and Otherwise," THE BOOKMAN (July 1916)
[Excerpt] . . . It's a fun caper, with some adventure and romance mixed in. Parker is a winsome character and a little reminiscent of Donald Westlake's comic thief, John Dortmunder . . . — B. V. Lawson, IN REFERENCE TO MURDER (March 7, 2014)
[Full review] Another book by Oppenheim that has lost some freshness because a plot device has become a bit threadbare. But the characters are charming, it retains much of its humour, and there is definitely a twist I didn't see coming! A nice, light read. — Abigail, GOODREADS (August 27, 2013)
[Full review] Great funny forgotten book. Worth the read! Each chapter is about the main character's run in with a father daughter team of charlatans. The book has some good twists. — Aimee, GOODREADS (April 24, 2012)
[Full review] A young English aristocrat falls in with a con artist and his lovely daughter. The con artist is a very amusing character and wait until his wife shows up. Recommended. — Karen, GOODREADS (July 8, 2010)
F. Berkeley Smith

Category: Crime fiction (humorous)

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