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The Great Impersonation

3.92  ·  Rating Details ·  481 Ratings  ·  83 Reviews
The trouble from which great events were to come began when Everard Dominey, who had been fighting his way through the scrub for the last three quarters of an hour towards those thin, spiral wisps of smoke, urged his pony to a last despairing effort and came crashing through the great oleander shrub to pitch forward on his head in the little clearing.
Hardcover, 322 pages
Published 1920 by Little, Brown, and Co.
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Aug 07, 2011 Sketchbook rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
EPO was a bon vivant, worldling and womanizer who wrote about 60 thriller-espionagers in the early 20thC. His characters are rich, glamorous -- both the good and the bad. Quirky readers like myself have even collected his oft dated but delightfully woozy adventures. (I have about 15). Some are not terrif, yet all have snappy dialogue and atmospheric situs. Cocktail reading, for sure, in a tottery oceanfront house perched on a cliff--.

Dissipated Brit in Africa, Everard Dominey, meets his double,
4.5 *
Excellent espionage suspense novel set in the time leading up to WW1.

Two men who look amazingly alike, one German and one English, meet in German East Africa. Which one is it that returns to England as Everard Dominey?? Added to that is the mystery surrounding Dominey's wife and the circumstances which led him to leave England in the first place.

I listened to the LibriVox recording by Tim Weiss which was fine though a tad slow in its pace for my taste.
Sep 05, 2016 Eleanor rated it it was ok
I read about this book somewhere, so thought it was worth trying. Very dated tosh, especially when it comes to the women who fawn over the central character. All right if you read it as an example of the sorts of books people thought were thrilling back in about 1920, but not otherwise.
Marts  (Thinker)
A most exciting novel a German intends to murder an Englishman with rather similar features to his, assume his identity and spy on the English high society. This tale is full of murder, crime, confused identity, blackmail, war, romance, politics, and theres even a 'ghost'...
All the elements of an exciting adventure!!!
Barry H. Wiley
This novel,written in 1920,is a winner. The twist in the last chapter is stunning. It is a first rate espionage/spy thriller set in the months before WWI. It is marked contrast to much of today's thriller writing, i.e., a minimum of violence, few four letter words, and no explicit sex scenes, yet it is a compelling read.
E. Phillips Oppenheim became one of the most popular writers of mysteries and spy thrillers, in the UK and the US, producing more than 100 novels between 1887 and 1943. He die
Feb 06, 2015 Harley rated it liked it
I thought I read this because of a review by Michael Dirda of the Wash. Post on Oppenheim's writings, but I can't find any such review online. Dirda or no, the review warned me this wasn't a literary gem. My interest was in spy novels that preceded Eric Ambler or John Buchan.
It was a competent book in the Buchan vein of competent but uninspired writing. Where it's not up to snuff with either Buchan or Ambler was in the area of thrills and suspense.
The story concerns two chaps who look alike an
Nov 13, 2012 Suzanne rated it really liked it
This was very quickly paced for a book written almost 100 years ago. I expected it to drag a little more, as older works sometimes do, but it was suspenseful throughout. It was even romantic, which surprised me. I thought Victorian/Edwardian gentlemen, like the author, were disdainful of "sentiment." My only complaint is that as a modern reader I seem to be less able to suspend disbelief, and I found some of the plot, particularly the parts that dealt with the "insane" Lady Dominey, a little far ...more
Oct 09, 2012 Laurent rated it liked it
Entertaining but kind of forgettable

I quite enjoyed The Great Impersonation... Despite it feeling somewhat dated in language, the story and characters were well developed and I didn't really see the twist at the end. In fact, and I'm sure this won't be a popular position, but I didn't quite buy the end. Dominey had been built up to be such a drunken loser that for him to have the nerve, cunning and ability to completely transform himself and take on the role as a duping Von Ragastein seems a bit
Manpreet Singh
Dec 10, 2009 Manpreet Singh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recommendations
Master Piece. Great!!
A must read. I started this book on 7 PM and was so absorbed by it that finished it in the first reading on 1 AM. :)
Just great, the plot events keeps you immersed in the book. I love how the author made such real characters and how he turn the pace of events.

Everyone should read it.
richardson.joshua Richardson
Wow. This adventure/mystery book was read by my mother when she was a high school student, and she suggested this to me. It is a intriguing story of two men, one who is German and one who is English, who look exactly the same. One is a spy for their country, taking the place of the other in society. Which one?
Feb 10, 2013 Betty rated it really liked it
Shelves: england, spy
First published in 1920, The Great Impersonation is a classic spy novel. While it often reads like a farce (the author even put this in the mouth of one of the characters, the plot is clever if a bit far-fetched. Nonetheless, an entertaining read that every spy fiction fan should read. Now available for free as a Kindle edition, it was out of print for years.
Maria Beltrami
Chi è veramente sir Everard Dominey? E' lui, oppure è il suo sosia e amico di gioventù, il barone tedesco von Ragastein. A giudicare dal comportamento, è il secondo che impersona il primo, avendo perso tutti i difetti che hanno fatto di lui una farfalla sociale, fino al punto di dover scappare in Africa inseguito da un'accusa di omicidio e da quella, ancora più grave, di aver ridotto alla pazzia la sua innamoratissima moglie. A rendere più complicata la faccenda, ci sono le prime avvisaglie degl ...more
Alex Robertson
Jan 19, 2017 Alex Robertson rated it it was amazing
E. Phillips Oppenheim was very prolific. A lot of his work can be classed as "alternative history", although this book does not fit that category. The Great Impersonation has been described as his best work. Based on the dozen or so of his books that I have read, I would agree. The story basically concerns a German nobleman who is to become a spy in England before the First World War. To do this he is to assume the identity of an English aristocrat, who was called his double at Oxford. The langu ...more
Nov 13, 2016 Viktor rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'm reading books recommended by this one:
Thrillers: 100 Must-Reads by David Morrell

It received a glowing review therein. However, what I discovered was a very tedious, repetitious novel. We are told again and again each characters motivations. "Remember, sir, that conversation we had about your motivations? Well, I'll remind you of it now. It went like this..." Lather, rinse, repeat.

The ending is a cheat and creates more questions than it answers. An auth
Graeme Shimmin
Aug 19, 2014 Graeme Shimmin rated it liked it
Shelves: spy-thrillers
In 1913, a German spy assumes a dead Englishman’s identity and infiltrates British society as a sleeper agent, but when he falls in love with the Englishman’s wife and his Hungarian ex-lover recognises him, he must decide how to deal with the two women who may wreck his plans.

The Great Impersonation has a hybrid plot, and is not a pure espionage novel. It is partly a spy mission, but mostly a mystery, and a romance with Gothic elements.

Gothic Romance
The haunting sub-plot, with its spooky
Alex Gherzo
Jan 22, 2015 Alex Gherzo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the marks of a great writer is being able to infuse tension and excitement into a book where not much actually happens. That's the case with E. Phillips Oppenheim and his spy novel The Great Impersonation. The bulk of the story is just people talking to each other in an English manor, yet every scene is fraught with intrigue, and he's able to accomplish this in some remarkably subtle ways.

Sir Everard Dominey, a lazy, frivolous English aristocrat, is drinking his way through Africa in 1913
Larry Piper
Jul 16, 2014 Larry Piper rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adventure
I've known that E. Phillips Oppenheim was a very popular author during the early years of the 20th century. We had, or used to have, one of his books lying around the house for as long as I can remember. But, I've never read him before. Until now, that is. Although this book didn't capture my fancy all that much, I think it was more the subject matter than the writing and plotting. So, I'll likely try Oppenheim again.

This book has some intriguing ideas, but in the end, I don't think they really
May 21, 2014 Anna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Maybe the third time IS the charm . .. this is a great story! It is a political thriller, as well as a historical romance with gothic elements. At the beginning it reminded me of the Richard Hannay stories, then "The Prisoner of Zenda".

This book was published in 1920, but the action takes place just prior to what would become WWI and in many instances foreshadows the broader actions of WWII. Was this Oppenheim commenting on the British attitude following the Great War and preaching vigilance? Th
Jul 21, 2015 Amy rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: WWII interests, original spy-master
Recommended to Amy by: Book Lust
This tale reminded me of the atmosphere and characters of Rebecca - and it is every bit the classic of du Maurier's tale. It was converted to film 3 times from 1921-1942 when it must have felt most relevant (with the ominous Kaiser and Reichland raising their heads each time). Now you can barely find it in print which is a shame because it is a great spy novel, mentally suspenseful rather than full of violence and it has fabulous characters both individual and national. If the end is somewhat pr ...more
Jun 14, 2015 Kent rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I forgot how I heard of the author, but I very much liked his writing style. It sounded like it was written 100 years ago - cuz it was. (I thought it was silly that the publisher thought it necessary to apologize that the original spelling, grammar, etc., was maintained; that was what made the story so interesting.) Written soon after WWI about the times immediately before the start of WWI, the book was solid without being stuffy. No cussing or blood, kinda like the movies of the 40s where it wa ...more
Jul 08, 2016 Linda rated it it was amazing
The author drew a fine line between identity suspense and character development. If I hadn't read this book before, I would have been truly puzzled about the identity of the lookalike characters. On the second read, the similarity between this book and Brat Farrar (Josephine Tey) becomes a little more clear, in that 'death therapy' draws out the best and the worst of each person, showing that a good bloodline tells in the end. I most enjoyed the theme of assumption, that people often draw conclu ...more
Carrie Smith
Nov 10, 2012 Carrie Smith rated it it was amazing
Throughly loved this book. Written just after the first world war it deals with the concept of trading places is an early spy novel.

Books written today that deal with the First World War look back with an inordinate amount of hindsight. What I really liked about this book is that it deals with the war just as it has ended and so the gossip and the guilt are the setting are real and untainted by the future.

You get a wonderful flavour for the time and the backdrop of politics at the time.

Jul 05, 2008 CLM rated it really liked it
When the disgraced Everard Dominey returns to England after many years away, he has made a fortune and is determined to rehabilitate himself. However, soon his former friends are convinced he is really a German spy, Baron von Ragastein, who attended university with them and might be able to play the part of an English gentleman. As war with Germany approaches, it becomes important to figure out exactly who Sir Everard is...

My college library owned copies of every Oppenheimer book, and I read the
Margaret Carmel
Dec 14, 2013 Margaret Carmel rated it liked it
While I enjoyed the twists and turns of the story, I found the characterization so thin that it's confusing as to who's who. Also I think that the author wrote it without planning the end because I find a lot of things very rushed and not very nuanced. Like, once a character is introduced they are made to seem like they are one thing but then suddenly they are not. I would have liked to see more foreshadowing in what ends up happening. The end also seemed very rushed and sudden, but I did guess ...more
Aug 07, 2013 Richie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There were a lot of things I really liked about this book - unfortunately, the end wasn't one of them. Still, the ride is worth the read and a lot of people will love the wrap up.

This book does a great job of creating an entertaining ambiance of the English aristocracy in the early 1900s. The spy aspects of this story are really more Mr. Darcy than James Bond but there is enough espionage to keep the story moving and some fun characters. Intrigue, romance, politics, it's all here. Easy, quick re
Jul 10, 2016 Sally rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a ripping adventure novel. Everard Dominey, a dissolute Englishman, meets his doppelgänger, the German Leopold Von Ragastein, in German East Africa several years before the beginning of WWI. Only one of them leaves alive. The novel keeps the reader on her toes as to which one survives, and whether that person is in thrall to the German government, partly because of an affair Von Ragastein had with a married woman ten years earlier. Good story and made into three movies, the last starring Ra ...more
Jul 03, 2008 Heidi rated it liked it
Recommended to Heidi by: Raylyn
Shelves: classics
This was better than I expected, not that I thought it would be bad. I guessed the ending before I got there, but I wasn't disappointed.

Definitely not a "PC" book (women and blacks don't fare well) and definitely a product of the era in which it was written. Germany is trying to take over Europe and sends a devout believer with a checkered past to pose as an English country gentleman. The man he's impersonating also has a checkered past and an insane wife, so there's a bit of mystery mixed in.

Jul 15, 2016 Karen marked it as to-read
* 1000 novels everyone must read: the definitive list: Crime

Selected by the Guardian's Review team and a panel of expert judges, this list includes only novels – no memoirs, no short stories, no long poems – from any decade and in any language. Originally published in thematic supplements – love, crime, comedy, family and self, state of the nation, science fiction and fantasy, war and travel – they appear here for the first time.
Sep 20, 2011 Bekah rated it it was amazing
After 10 years, two college acquaintances meet again, in the wilds of Africa in the early 1900's. One of them makes it out alive and travels to England, pretending to be the other. Thus the great impersonation begins.
It's an explosive mix of spies/secret agents, politics/impending war, impersonations/mystery, secrets/scandals, with a dash of romance and a haunted estate too. What's not to like?! I loved it.
PG for some language & sensuality
Feb 01, 2008 Pygmy rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics, fiction
Awesome, fun, and stylish in the way only books written in he early 1900s can be.

The only letdown was the very ending, where there was an extraordinary twist!, and a pretty predictable one at that, merely for the sake of having a twist and not because it really worked.

Still, it was a great read overall. I <3 reserved German characters with strict military upbringing.
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Edward Phillips Oppenheim was an English novelist, primarily known for his suspense fiction.

He was born on 22 October 1866 in Leicester, the son of a leather merchant, and after attending Wyggeston Grammar School he worked in his father's business for almost 20 years, beginning there at a young age. He continued working in the business, even though he was a successful novelist, until he was 40 at
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