Thursday, January 22, 2015

Mystery Afoot: The Evil Shepherd and The Clue

A friend recently introduced me to Early Bird Books which sends e-book deals to my inbox. Every day there is a free book offered along with the ones for sale at reasonable prices ($.99 to $2.99). I like Free and since I signed up there has been a spate of older, much older, mysteries published by Mysterious Press. Mysterious Press was founded in 1975 by Otto Penzler, owner of the Mysterious Bookshop in New York City, purveyor of crime, espionage, thriller, and suspense novels.

As I like to read a quiet mystery, these selections have proven to be perfect for my bedtime reading.

The Evil Shepherd by E. Phillips Oppenheim is the story of successful defense attorney, Francis Ledsam, who, in having just gotten his client set free of a murder charge, learns that the man really was guilty. Not only of murder but other crimes as well. And who is it that offers this piece of news? None other than the guilty man's wife. Realizing that his cleverness has let a despicable man go free, Ledsam vows not to take any other cases unless he is sure of the client's innocence. 

Things move on from there as Ledsam becomes involved with the wife and her father, Sir Timothy, who owns a mansion outside of London where all sorts of wild parties take place creating even wilder gossip about such parties. Sir Timothy is a very complicated fellow with a soft spot for animals even as he enjoys ruthless boxing matches. A very unusual character.

The Evil Shepherd was published in 1922 and is one of over 100 books written by Mr. Oppenheim. The characters are interesting and mostly wealthy and hold clever conversations about good and evil. I enjoyed the story, although I had no idea where it was headed, and was surprised at the ending. 

The Clue by Carolyn Wells was published in 1909. The crime involves the murder of wealthy heiress Madeleine Van Norman on the eve of her wedding. It is the book that introduced detective Fleming Stone who is "of a most attractive personality. He was nearly fifty years old, with graying hair and a kindly, responsive face." Since Mr. Stone doesn't actually arrive until the very end of the tale to solve the crime, most of the detective work is done by Rob Fessenden, lawyer and best man to the groom (and prominent suspect) Schuyler Carleton. Fessenden is helped in his sleuthing by Madeleine's friend the attractive and clever Kitty French. 

In addition to Mr. Carleton there are plenty of other suspects and although this locked-house mystery moves along at a leisurely pace, I enjoyed spending time with the house guests and watching a little romance bloom between Fessenden and French.

Ms. Wells wrote more than 150 books - mysteries as well as children's books and poetry. She was influenced by the mystery writer Anna Katherine Green (I wrote about her here) and after reading one of her puzzlers, decided to devote herself to mystery writing. 

Two others that I downloaded but have not yet read are The Singing Bone (1912) by R. Austin Freeman, a series of short stories or cases about what must have been the first CSI-style detective, Dr. Thorndyke, and Call Mr. Fortune (1920) by H.C. Bailey featuring medical detective Dr. Reggie Fortune, a character that has been compared to a darker Lord Peter Wimsey.

All these mysteries are available for free at various sites online. I am sure none of them will leave you breathless from excitement which makes them the perfect sleepy-time read.  


  1. I love these old mysteries. I've read The Great Impersonation by Oppenheim, but non of his others. I have a few of Carolyn Wells' books on my Kindle. But Bailey is new to me. Have you read any of Anna Katharine Green's mysteries?

    1. Joan, I had never heard of Oppenheim and had not read anything by Wells, but I am glad to have found both of them. I read a couple of short stories by Ms. Green and her full-length "The Leavenworth Case". I like the slower pace from this era of mysteries.