Brandreth, Gyles - 'Oscar Wilde and the Vatican Murders'
July 1892 and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has been asked by his wife to go to the German Spa town of Homburg, to rest and recuperate following many months of hard work, completing many stories about Sherlock Holmes. The first English speaking person he runs into at his hotel, is the well known literary figure of Oscar Wilde. They had originally met three years previously and are now old friends. Arthur explains to Oscar that he was going to spend 10 days in the hotel away from all his London distractions, in order to catch up with his correspondence. He had brought a portmanteau of hundredss of letters, addressed to "Sherlock Holmes, at 221B, Baker Street" and intended to reply to all of them. So with Oscar's help, Sir Arthur does just that but whilst going through the letters he is disturbed to discover that one packet holds a complete small hand severed at the wrist but which seemed to have been embalmed, there is no note in the envelope which seemed to have been posted in Rome the previous January. Another envelope, posted also from Rome, holds a lock of blonde hair and yet another packet contains an index finger complete with ring.
Oscar persuades Sir Arthur to go with him to Rome immediately by train the next morning. Which they do, as they were very alarmed at the macabre discovery of these body parts in the envelopes. Had some one been killed? On the train they meet an Anglican minister and his sister who are going to take up residence at a church in Rome and they have some interesting conversations with them and resolve to meet again in Rome. Oscar had visited the Vatican City in Rome a few years previously and been introduced to the then Pope, who has subsequently died, and a new one elected.
In and around the Vatican the pair of literary detectives have many interesting and amusing adventures before they discover who has been murdered and by whom. The book is up to the usual high standard of Gyles Brandreth and I found it quite a page turner and surprised myself how quickly I read it. It is filled with amusing side stories and biographical facts about the characters and the Vatican, which added to its charm. 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 enjoyed it tremendously.
This historical mystery with much humour was a real entertainment and something to look forward to at the end of a hard day. If you have the opportunity to read it please do, as you will undoubtedly find it a sparkling treat and very enjoyable.
Terry Halligan, England