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The Seven Conundrums

August 19, 2019

I’ve been reading a lot of E. Phillips Oppenheim lately. This is a thing that happens to me sometimes. It’s kind of like getting a cold.

I’m afraid of running out of Oppenheim short stories at some point, so I’ve mostly been reading ones I’ve already read. One of those is The Seven Conundrums, a series of seven stories–and an intro–about three young entertainers working for a mysterious epicure.

Maurice Lister is the narrator, and he, Leonard Cotton, and Rose Mindel are a stage act incorporating music and comedy. It’s not long after WWI, they’re all of genteel upbringing and without any means of support, and Maurice and Leonard are both in love with Rose. Oh, and Maurice is missing an arm, although I think Oppenheim forgot about that at some point.

They’re unsuccessful and close to starving when Mr. Richard Thompson finds them, serves them a nice meal, and proposes that they work for him. He tells them very little about himself or the nature of the work, but they’re not in a position to object. Each of the stories involves Thompson sending them somewhere with fairly vague instructions, and the adventurelets that follow. There’s a time when they’re meant to locate some jewels, and a time when they’re guarding jewels that may be stolen, and a time when they’re watching out for a young man who’s in danger. Maurice is sometimes asked to attract women, Rose is sometimes asked to attract men, and Leonard doesn’t do a whole lot at all.

Most of the stories are a little sad or tragic, but not in a way that touches the main characters very closely. And the dynamics between Rose, Leonard and Maurice aren’t as interesting as Oppenheim thinks they are, but their relationship with Thompson kind of is. Oppenheim often gives me more of things than I want, to the point where I wish I hadn’t asked, but The Seven Conundrums is short and sweet. The solution to the overarching mystery–who is Thompson and what does he need them for–isn’t as interesting as I’d hoped, but I didn’t really mind.

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7 comments

  1. You’re back! I’ve missed you!


    • I’m…sort of back. trying to be back?


  2. Same. I’ve missed you too.

    I hope you’re leading an exciting life!


    • not very exciting, but better than it had been, thanks!


      • Interconnected short stories are the perfect solution when life gets to busy for much reading. I will have to check these out.


  3. Plus, great title! These sound like they would be perfect to listen to on librivox


    • ooh, yes. definitely. I’ve listened to some oppenheim on librivox, but they have a lot more of the novels than the story collections.



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