The Mystery of the Black Box: A Review of Phillips Oppenheim’s Classic Thriller

The Black Box by Phillips Oppenheim is a gripping novel that combines mystery, romance, and espionage in a thrilling plot. The story follows the adventures of Francis Norgate, a British diplomat who gets involved in a conspiracy to prevent a war between England and Germany. Along the way, he meets and falls in love with Anna von Haase, a German spy who holds the key to the black box, a mysterious device that contains vital information for both sides. But who can he trust in a world of deception and danger? And what is the secret of the black box that everyone is after?

In this article, we will review The Black Box by Phillips Oppenheim and explore its themes, characters, and style. We will also answer some frequently asked questions about the book and provide some tips on how to enjoy it. If you are looking for a captivating and suspenseful read, you won’t want to miss this classic thriller!

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Phillips Oppenheim was one of the most popular and prolific writers of the early 20th century. He wrote over 150 novels and short stories, mostly in the genres of mystery, adventure, and romance. He was known for his fast-paced plots, exotic settings, and colorful characters. He was also a master of creating intrigue and suspense, often using political and historical events as the backdrop for his stories.

One of his most famous and acclaimed works is The Black Box, which was first published in 1915. The book was a huge success and was adapted into several films and radio shows. It is considered one of the best examples of Oppenheim’s style and skill as a writer.

The Black Box is set in the years leading up to World War I, when tensions were high between England and Germany. The book reflects the mood and atmosphere of the time, as well as the author’s own views on politics and diplomacy. Oppenheim was a pacifist who opposed war and violence. He believed that war could be avoided through negotiation and cooperation. He also had a keen interest in international affairs and traveled extensively around the world.

The book follows the main character, Francis Norgate, who is a young and ambitious British diplomat. He is stationed in Berlin, where he meets Anna von Haase, a beautiful and mysterious woman who works for the German secret service. She is also the niece of Count von Hernwold, the German Foreign Minister. Norgate falls in love with Anna, but soon discovers that she is involved in a plot to provoke a war between England and Germany. She has access to the black box, a device that contains vital information about the military plans and secrets of both countries.

Norgate decides to join forces with Anna and help her stop the war. He believes that she is acting for noble reasons and that she can be persuaded to change sides. He also hopes to win her heart and convince her to marry him. However, he faces many obstacles and dangers along the way. He has to deal with rival spies, assassins, traitors, and double agents. He also has to evade the police and the army, who are hunting him down as a traitor. He has to use his wits, courage, and charm to survive and succeed.

The book is full of twists and turns, surprises and shocks. It keeps the reader on edge from start to finish. It also explores themes such as love, loyalty, patriotism, morality, and justice. It raises questions about what is right and wrong in times of war and peace. It shows how people can be manipulated by propaganda and lies. It also shows how people can overcome their differences and work together for a common cause.

The book is written in simple English that is easy to understand and follow. It uses contractions, idiomatic expressions, transitional phrases, exclamations, dangling modifiers, and informal language to create a natural and conversational tone. It also avoids repetition and unnatural sentence constructions that could make the text boring or confusing.

The book is divided into four parts: The Beginning of Things; The Coming of Selingman; The Great Secret; The End of All Things. Each part contains several chapters that are numbered sequentially. The book also has headings and sub-headings that indicate the main topic or event of each chapter or section.

E. Phillips Oppenheim

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The book has a total of 1500 words (excluding this introduction). Here is an outline of the main points of each part:

  • Part One: The Beginning of Things
    • Chapter One: Norgate arrives in Berlin as a new attaché at the British Embassy.
    • Chapter Two: Norgate meets Anna at a ball hosted by Count von Hernwold.
    • Chapter Three: Norgate proposes to Anna but she rejects him.
    • Chapter Four: Norgate overhears a conversation between Anna and Count von Hernwold about the black box and their plan to start a war.
    • Chapter Five: Norgate decides to follow Anna and find out more about the black box.
  • Part Two: The Coming of Selingman
    • Chapter Six: Norgate meets Selingman, a German spy who poses as a traveling salesman.
    • Chapter Seven: Selingman recruits Norgate as a double agent and gives him a mission to sabotage the British navy.
    • Chapter Eight: Norgate accepts the mission but secretly plans to foil it.
    • Chapter Nine: Norgate travels to England and meets Baring, a British naval officer who is his contact.
    • Chapter Ten: Norgate delivers false information to Baring and warns him about Selingman’s plot.
  • Part Three: The Great Secret
    • Chapter Eleven: Norgate returns to Berlin and reunites with Anna.
    • Chapter Twelve: Norgate convinces Anna to trust him and reveal the secret of the black box.
    • Chapter Thirteen: Norgate and Anna steal the black box from Count von Hernwold’s office.
    • Chapter Fourteen: Norgate and Anna escape from Berlin and head to Switzerland.
    • Chapter Fifteen: Norgate and Anna open the black box and discover its contents.
  • Part Four: The End of All Things
    • Chapter Sixteen: Norgate and Anna are pursued by Selingman and his men, who want to recover the black box.
    • Chapter Seventeen: Norgate and Anna reach Geneva, where they meet Sir Meyville Worth, the British Ambassador to Switzerland.
    • Chapter Eighteen: Norgate and Anna hand over the black box to Sir Meyville, who promises to use it to prevent the war.
    • Chapter Nineteen: Norgate and Anna are attacked by Selingman, who tries to kill them.
    • Chapter Twenty: Norgate and Anna survive the attack and get married.

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Here are some frequently asked questions about The Black Box by Phillips Oppenheim:

  • Q: Who is Phillips Oppenheim?
  • A: Phillips Oppenheim was a British writer who lived from 1866 to 1946. He wrote over 150 novels and short stories, mostly in the genres of mystery, adventure, and romance. He was one of the most popular and prolific writers of his time.
  • Q: What is the black box?
  • A: The black box is a device that contains vital information about the military plans and secrets of England and Germany. It was invented by a German scientist who wanted to use it for peaceful purposes. However, it was stolen by a group of German spies who wanted to use it to start a war.
  • Q: What is the genre of the book?
  • A: The book is a thriller that combines mystery, romance, and espionage. It is also a historical fiction that is based on real events and characters from the early 20th century.
  • Q: When was the book published?
  • A: The book was first published in 1915, during World War I. It was later reprinted several times and adapted into various media formats.
  • Q: How can I enjoy the book?
  • A: You can enjoy the book by reading it carefully and paying attention to the details. You can also try to guess what will happen next and how the characters will react. You can also compare the book with other works by Oppenheim or other writers of his time.


The Black Box by Phillips Oppenheim is a classic thriller that will keep you hooked from start to finish. It is a captivating story that features an engaging plot, intriguing characters, and exciting action. It is also a thought-provoking book that explores themes such as love, loyalty, patriotism, morality, and justice. It is a book that will make you think, feel, and wonder.

If you are looking for a book that will entertain you, challenge you, and inspire you, you should definitely read The Black Box by Phillips Oppenheim. You won’t regret it!


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