E. Phillips Oppenheim contributed more than 150 novels to the mystery and detective genre. Because he served in the British Ministry of Information during World War I, Oppenheim was privy to at least some of the workings of the British Secret Service, and his protagonists are frequently Secret Service employees. There are no detective series in Oppenheim’s work; each novel introduces a new set of characters. Oppenheim wrote about wealthy supermen and their way of life. His largely upper-class characters share a love of good wine and smoke exotic cigarettes. The women are beautiful and virtuous. While the men fall in love in almost every novel, the excitement of adventure takes precedence over that of romance. Oppenheim claimed to have begun each book with “a sense of the first chapter and an inkling of something to follow,” and his plots are rarely dull.
That the plots of his immense oeuvre are not repetitive is a credit to Oppenheim’s fertile imagination. Most of his books involve some kind of international intrigue, and many of them reveal a surprise hero. His single greatest literary influence was probably his neighbor in the French Riviera, Baroness Orczy, author of The Scarlet Pimpernel (1905). Louis, the maître d’ of the Milan Hotel in A Pulpit in the Grill Room (1938) and The Milan Grill Room: Further Adventures of Louis, the Manager, and Major Lyson, the Raconteur (1940), is reminiscent of Orczy’s armchair detective, the Old Man in the Corner.