About this book: Oscar Wilde has fled to France after his release from Reading Gaol. Tonight he is sharing a drink and the story of his cruel imprisonment with a mysterious stranger. Oscar has endured the treadmill, solitary confinement, censored letters, no writing materials. Yet even in the midst of such deprivation, his astonishing detective powers remain undiminished—and when first a brutal warder and then the prison chaplain are found murdered, who else should the governor turn to for help other than Reading Gaol’s most celebrated inmate?
Judge this book by its cover? Yes, for both subject and tone.
Reminds me of…a bit like Dorothy Sayers’ mysteries for era and wit, but much heavier.
Buy or borrow? Borrow to test-drive. Buy to collect.
Why did I read this book? For Touchstone for review.
Would I read another by this author? Yes, especially a lighter one.
My take: I must say I counted it a privilege to receive a copy of this book for review. Brandreth’s acclaimed series has been published in 23 countries and is being made into a BBC mystery series. (Cannot wait for that!). It features an ingenious premise about a fascinating character who, in real life, rubbed elbows with equally fascinating people.
Brandreth, an enormous Wilde fan, has studied his life exhaustively and has taken pains to mimic the great man’s voice. So much so, he cannot always remember if certain quotes originated from Wilde or if he made them up. To wit: “There is nothing like an unexpected death for lifting the spirits.” Sounds just like Wilde, doesn’t it?
This book is superbly executed, its voice pitch perfect, and its period atmosphere finely honed. For all of that, I wish I could say I enjoyed it more than I did, but it’s just too sophisticated, its tone too dark and downcast, for my tastes. Indeed, from all that I’ve read about the series, this is the heaviest one of the bunch (which takes place toward the end of Wilde’s sad life), which makes me wonder if I might like another better. For that, I’d be willing to try.
Thanks to Touchstone for providing me a free copy to review. All opinions are mine.
For more historical information about Wilde as well as details about other books in this series, visit OscarWildeMurderMysteries.com. And for a brief tour of Oscar Wilde-land guided by Gyles Brandreth himself, watch this entertaining video.