Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

Sonderbooks Stand-out 2004
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*****The Great Impersonation

by E. Phillips Oppenheim

Reviewed June 5, 2004.
First published in 1920.  239 pages. 
Available at Sembach Library (F OPP).
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2004, #2, Classic Fiction

Here’s an old-fashioned and thoroughly wonderful spy novel.  Today I felt a bit under the weather and it was the perfect bit of escapism to curl up with a cup of tea and this book.

The book opens just before World War I in Africa.  Sir Everard Dominey meets an old school friend in the middle of nowhere.  The friend is Baron von Ragastein, a German.  People always said they looked remarkably alike, but now Sir Dominey is not looking well, having spent years pursuing pleasure and trying to forget the tragedy that made him leave England years ago.

Baron von Ragastein also left a tragedy behind, but it left him more disciplined, in better shape, and determined to work for his country.  Now he has a mission to find a foothold in England before the inevitable war begins.  The fortuitous meeting with his look-alike seems to be exactly what he needs.  He plans to do away with Sir Dominey in the wilderness of Africa.

However, if the impersonation is to be successful, the new Sir Dominey must figure out how to deal with the two women who may destroy his plans.  For both men’s tragedies involved a woman, and both these women are now in England.  Neither one is convinced that the returned Sir Dominey is the person he claims to be.

This book is a bit old-fashioned.  The fragile woman who needs a strong man to help her is a little annoying.  But if you can forgive that little detail, it is in every way delightful.  It’s a clever, romantic story, and even more fun to read a second or third time, when you can appreciate the carefully constructed plot all the more thoroughly.

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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