Saturday, November 12, 2011

Guest Review: Oscar Wilde and a Death of No Importance by Gyles Brandreth

ISBN-10: 1416534830
ASIN #: B001PO64VE
Page Count: 368
Copyright: 2008
Publisher: Touchstone

Book Overview:
(Taken from book website)

London, 1889. Oscar Wilde, celebrated poet, wit, playwright and raconteur, is the literary sensation of his age. All Europe lies at his feet. Yet when he chances upon the naked corpse of sixteen-year-old Billy Wood, posed by candlelight in a dark and stifling upstairs room, he cannot ignore the brutal murder. With the help of fellow author Arthur Conan Doyle, he sets out to solve the crime - and it is Wilde's peculiar genius and his unparalleled access to all degrees of late-Victorian life - from society drawing rooms and the bohemian demi-monde to the criminal underclass - that prove the decisive factors in their investigation of what turns out to be the first in a series of bizarre and apparently inexplicable killings.

Oscar Wilde and the Candlelight Murders is a gripping detective story that explores the secret world of Oscar Wilde - his surprising friendships, his complex marriage, and his unusual association with Inspector Aidan Fraser of Scotland Yard.

Set against the exotic backdrop of fin-de-siecle London and Paris, Gyles Brandreth evokes Oscar Wilde's trademark wit and brilliance with huge flair, intertwining all the intrigue of the classic English murder mystery with a compelling portrait of one of the greatest characters of the Victorian age.

Denise's Review:

The main characters in this mystery novel come from real life; Oscar Wilde (a 19th century writer who really needs no introduction), Robert Sherard (Oscar Wilde's true-life friend, also a writer and journalist) and Arthur Conan Doyle (author of the Sherlock Holmes series). Although the characters are based on fact, the story is fiction ... and great fiction it is.

In accordance with Robert Sherard's true-life role as Oscar Wilde's biographer, the characters of Robert Sherard serves as the narrator of the story. The story begins with Oscar Wilde introducting Mr. Sherard to Arthur Conan Doyle. Mr. Doyle's Sherlock Holmes short stories are being read wildly by many, and when Oscar Wilde happens upon the murdered body of his sixteen-year-old friend, Billy Wood, he quickly begins trying to solve the murder mystery by using the techniques of Sherlock Holmes.

Using the same tricks, tools and reasoning of Holmes, Wilde sets about first trying to prove that the boy was indeed murdered and second hunting down the killer. This man-hunt takes Oscar and his friends into the fascinating and somewhat questionable parts of London; from high-class restaurants and drawing rooms to the bizarre world of London's Victorian era "counter culture."

Brandreth does a remarkable job of weaving fiction and fact. He uses known facts about Wilde's life (his marriage, his family and friends, his lifestyle that eventually ended in his exile from England). The language is even dead on for the period setting. Brandreth also managed to master the witty, curious and unique style of speech that Oscar Wilde is so well known for. There were times I forgot that I was reading fiction.

Even if you are not typically drawn to mystery novels or Victorian-era work, Oscar Wilde and a Death of No Importance should be on your list of "must reads." You will be captivated by the language, the plot and the history so meticuously written by Brandreth.

I give this novel five out of five stars.

About Denise:

Denise Keene has been a Special Ed teacher for 15 years now and likes to write articles about various related topics. She also owns the site Masters In Special Education.

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