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Brandreth, Gyles - 'Oscar Wilde and the Dead Man's Smile'
Trade Paperback: 365 pages (May 2009) Publisher: John Murray Publishers Ltd ISBN: 0719569214

Oscar Wilde, author, poet, playwright and personality goes to America, to give a lecture tour, and as was customary at that time, he travelled by ocean liner, The trip took ten days each way from Portsmouth to New York. The book details the people he meets during the return voyage. Edmond La Grange is a French actor-manager of the stature of the late Laurence Olivier and is travelling with a small entourage which includes his mother, mistress, son, daughter, dresser and several others. His mother owns this small dog that is very badly behaved and Oscar and almost everyone else are very irritated by it.

Oscar agrees to help Edmond La Grange, stage Hamlet in Paris. However, then the body of Edmond La Grange's dresser is discovered and although the death is staged to look like suicide or accident, Oscar strongly suspects a murder has been committed. Soon others are killed and the rather clumsy French Police become involved. It starts to get very perplexing.

Oscar discovers that there are murky secrets at the heart of the La Grange theatre company. Risking life and reputation to solve the murders, his detecting takes him on a tour of bohemian night clubs, to an asylum for the insane and from a duel in the Bois de Boulogne to the interior of Reading Prison.

This story reads like a biography and many elements according to the author are true, including most of the characters. It is an incredibly entertaining classic murder mystery and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed a book written by this former Tory MP and 'Now Show' tv interviewer and did not want it to end after a rather slow start. If you have the opportunity to read this please do, as I'm sure you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Terry Halligan, England
November 2009

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 1/11/2009 14:04