- Paperback: 448 pages
- Publisher: John Murray; 1 edition (1 March 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0719569605
- ISBN-13: 978-0719569609
- Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.8 x 20 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 200 g
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 375,939 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Oscar Wilde and the Ring of Death: Oscar Wilde Mystery: 2 Paperback – 1 Mar 2009
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In OSCAR WILDE AND THE RING OF DEATH, the second in Gyles Brandreth's acclaimed Oscar Wilde Murder Mysteries series featuring Oscar Wilde and Arthur Conan Doyle, a parlour game of 'Murder' has lethal consequences... 'Intelligent, amusing and entertaining' Alexander McCall Smith
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I was fortunate enough to get my hands upon a copy published by John Murray. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was published by John Murray and also is a main friend of Oscar's.
So, we have Oscar Wilde, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Oscar's wife and children, and more as the characters put in a scenario where they must solve a multiple murder case.
The book is cleverly written as a personal diary of Robert Sherard. It gives the feeling of Watson and Holmes as an insider's view. Mr. Sherard takes us day by day through the events leading up to the first murder and on through the conclusion.
We are taken to the world on Oscar Wilde's London in 1892. There are maps, tours of actual sites and history of actual events that took place. These color the dialog and shape the story within.
This was a great book and fine mystery. I am left intrigued by this series and will be sure to read the other books.
If you're looking for a fast-paced thriller, this series is not for you. But if you love intelligent writing, character-driven, with great historical detail and a more leisurely unfolding of the story, then I can highly recommend Oscar Wilde's escapades.
The story is narrated by Robert Sherard, a poet, who, in real life, was not only Oscar Wilde's friend but his first biographer. He explains why Wilde's outward-appearing indolence could hide a sharp mind: "Oscar made a fine detective because, though he was a poet, he was, also, a classicist. His way with words was elaborate and ornate, flowery and full of fanciful flourishes, but his way of thinking was precise. He was not just a spinner of fine phrases: his understanding of grammar and syntax were profound. He had a poet's imagination, a painter's eye, an actor's ear, and a scholar's nose for detail and capacity for close analysis."
Tuesday, May 10, 1892, Oscar hosts a dinner party for 13 friends at the Cadogan Hotel, London. After feasting, and drinking, they play "Murder". On a slip of paper, each person writes the name of someone, real or fictional, whom they'd like to murder. The anonymous slips are put in a hat, drawn out one by one, and the participants try to guess who authored each note.
For example, one of the dinner guests is Arthur Conan Doyle (in real life, he was a friend of Wilde's). He wrote he'd like to murder "Sherlock Holmes", because he was tired of writing Holmes' mysteries and was working on how he could kill the popular detective off. [I can recommend (4 stars!) Graham Moore's "The Sherlockian" for more fun with that.]
Horrifically, over the next three days, the first three persons' names read out, well, one was a parrot, turn up actually dead. Is someone going down the list for the halibut? But why? Wilde, Sherard and Doyle are on the case, and time presses, because Oscar himself, and his lovely wife, Constance, were the last names read out.
I love the flow of conversation in this book. Wilde had to be a fascinating man to be around, even if sometimes exhausting. He had to be "on" all the time. Take this exchange, where Oscar asks Mr. Heron-Allen to escort Constance home: " 'Would you escort my wife back to Tite Street and sit with her while Mrs. Ryan provides you both with a pot of tea and the consoling comfort of crumpets?'
'It's far to warm for crumpets, Oscar,' Constance protested.
'Alliteration is no respecter of seasons, my dear," he said.' "
The author includes a great Postscript, giving historical background to the novel. I always love a well-turned author's note.
Very recommended reading.
Note: If you search for other books in the series, be aware that you can buy British and U.S. editions (on amazon) that have different names for the same books. The first in the series was published in England as "Oscar Wilde and the Candlelight Murders", and in the U.S. as "Oscar Wilde and the Death of No Importance".
This second in the series, "Oscar Wilde and the Ring of Death", is the British edition. The U.S. edition is published with the title "Oscar Wilde and a Game Called Murder: A Mystery (Oscar Wilde Mysteries)".
In the book, Mr Wilde is the toast of London's high society. His "Lady Windermere's Fan" is a critical and box-office success, and his popularity is unmatched amongst the cognoscenti. One evening, at an exclusive "Sunday Supper Club" dinner with such friends as Arthur Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker, and Robert Sherard (who also narrates the story), Wilde introduces a parlor game involving a list of people that his guests would secretly like to kill. From the next day onward, each person on the "hit list" dies mysteriously, in the very order with which his or her name showed up during the dinner. Wilde, Conan Doyle, and Sherard begin to investigate independently, especially after failing to enlist the help of Scotland Yard . . . and especially since Wilde's name itself appears on the "hit list!" Their ensuing adventures are as jolly as they are thrilling.
Mr Brandreth's characters stay with you throughout the reading of the book. I like the way that he imbues beauty in every character, even those who Oscar Wilde considers "ugly" ("He is grotesque. Speak to him, Robert. I cannot") and who Robert Sherard abhors ("He was too charming, too intelligent, too well- and widely-read"). The sensual characters coexist with the virtuous, and they all stand out.
But it is in his profound knowledge of Oscar Wilde that Mr Brandreth shines. I am not sure of any other novelist who can match his ability to drop this much Wildesque one-liners ("It is sweet to think that one day I will serve to grow tulips") and add-on information ("It's called parsley." "Correctly known as 'petroselinum'"). Mix that with terrific wit and story-telling shrewdness, and you have an entertaining writer and a sensational book. I do not think that "Oscar Wilde and the Ring of Fire" is necessarily part of a series you read in order. I picked up the book from Kolkata's Starmark Bookstore with no prior knowledge of Mr Brandreth and his murder series, and I did not notice the need to read the prequel. However, I shall move on to the other books. Oscar Wilde and Gyles Brandreth are certainly worth the time.