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Oscar Wilde and the Dead Man's Smile: A Mystery (Oscar Wilde Mysteries) Kindle Edition

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Length: 402 pages Word Wise: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Oscar Wilde once again makes a convincing detective in Brandreth's excellent third whodunit to recreate the late Victorian age (after 2008's Oscar Wilde and a Game Called Murder). Framed as a puzzle posed by Wilde to his friend Arthur Conan Doyle in 1890, this adventure concerns a series of mysterious deaths plaguing a French acting troupe, the Compagnie La Grange, which Wilde encounters aboard ship in 1883. The first death is of a poodle, Marie Antoinette, whose body a customs officer in Liverpool unearths in a dirt-filled trunk that Wilde believed to be full of books he was bringing home from America. Human victims follow, forcing Wilde and his Watson, real-life journalist and Wilde biographer Robert Sherard, to untangle the complicated nest of emotions at play among the members of the Compagnie La Grange. John Dickson Carr fans will be gratified to find echoes of his style in several places, including the use of false endings. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"Immensely enjoyable, one of the best in the canon of literary mysteries." -- The Philadelphia Inquirer

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Red Rock Bookworm TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 30, 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Author Gyles Brandreth's latest Oscar Wilde mystery takes the reader on a journey that begins in the wild west of Leadville, Colorado circa 1882, and continues with an ocean voyage on which Oscar becomes acquainted with the LaGrange family, well known for its hundred year history in the theater. Invited by the senior LaGrange to add his personal touch to the script of Hamlet, Oscar follows the family to Paris. It is in this venue that Mr. Wilde encounters murder most foul and the reader is introduced to Mr. Wilde's inner circle.......a treasury of the famous and the infamous ranging from Sarah Bernhardt, complete with her animal menagerie, to Arthur Conan Doyle and James Russell Lowell. Complicit in this tale and cast as the narrator/chronicler of the story is Wilde's friend and compatriot, poet Robert Sherard.

Clever and unusual murders and the solution to the mystery aside, the historical aspects of the novel are engaging as are the salacious peeks into the dark underbelly of late nineteenth century Paris. Known to one and all for his pithy witticisms as well as his ability to regurgitate the equally amusing social observations of others, Oscar comes across as a varitable warehouse of pronouncements arrived at following intelligent scrutiny of the human animal, i.e., "The foolish and the dead alone never change their opinions", or "In the ocean of baseness, the deeper we get, the easier the sinking", or "Journalism is unreadable and literature is not read".

While the story does address Wilde's flamboyant style of dress and his preference for large amounts of absinthe and laudanum (opium/morphine) it neatly skirts his questionable sexual orientation and presents him as a man completely enamored of Constance Lloyd (the woman whom he later married).
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kaleidocherry VINE VOICE on July 31, 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Having greatly enjoyed Louis Bayard's "The Pale Blue Eye" (featuring Poe as a detective during a mystery at West Point) I thought it might be enjoyable to read a similar book featuring Oscar Wilde. The layout of this book is much like a Sherlock Holmes mystery: Wilde and his Watsonian sidekick, Robert Sherard, are dining at Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum with, in fact, Arthur Conan Doyle. They discuss a murder mystery that Oscar was instrumental in solving a few years previously, and at Wilde's behest, Sherard gives Conan Doyle a copy of a manuscript about that mystery. The main section of the book is the mystery, written from Sherard's point of view, and the epilogue is the recap of the mystery at another dinner with Conan Doyle.

The book has a fairly slow start. It seemed like the author was simply plugging the narrative with every Oscar Wilde quote I ever heard, but setting it in a scenario appropriate to the context of the quote. La Grange's description is very crudely done: a lot of blunt sentences starting with "He was" or "He looked" or "He had." Very awkward to read.

However, once we get to the point where Wilde is in Paris, things start to even out, and the book is quite good from that point on. I did stay up late to finish it. There is one big glaring thing that confuses me, though. During Wilde & Sherard's recap with Conan Doyle at the end of the book, they discuss the murders that took place. One of these took place on the boat coming back from America. Wilde emphasizes that a set of four murders had been planned, after which point all the killing would be finished. (We had learned about this "set of four murders" much earlier in the book, but here he recapitulates for the benefit of Conan Doyle.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By W. Carter VINE VOICE on December 30, 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Maybe my expectations were too high! I read the first two installments of Mr. Brandwreth's Oscar Wilde mystery series and was quite amused and entertained. Therefore, I had high hopes for this third in the series.

Let's go back to the beginning. Mr. Brandwreth is a very good writer and has demonstrated the ability to spin an admirable yarn. That being said, I found Dead Man's Smile to be disappointingly long and tedious. Even the storyline grew hazy at times. There are a multitude of characters and although many are well depicted, too many characters can easily slow a book's pace.

I will concede that sometimes I am not in the mood for a specific type of book and/or writing style and this may have been the case; however, I found Oscar and Robert Sheridan's slow moving investigation somewhat irksome. Perhaps I missed the uniqueness of Mr. Wilde's campy sense of humor and unparalleled wit. To me, this installment presented him as being somewhat pedestrian, if not downright pedantic. Where was the "fun" that the first two books captured and presented so easily?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Phelps Gates VINE VOICE on July 31, 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I initially found the fact that this "mystery" is 369 pages rather daunting, but it's highly readable, and quickly drew me into it: a hundred pages had passed before I realized it! It gives you a vivid picture of what Paris was like during la décadence, along with an entertaining semi-fictionalized treatment of Wilde's 1882 American tour. As is typical in books like this, the murder mystery plot is really just an excuse (though I found it clever, if a bit far-fetched). The book is really about what it would be like to have a wit like Oscar Wilde as a friend, and what life was like in the circles he moved in. There are two earlier books in the same series (it's coming out at six-month intervals) which I missed, and which I plan to read as soon as I can.

Brandreth is a Wilde student, and a student of the period, and he certainly has it down cold. He sometimes seems to be challenging his reader to say "hey, that's an anachronism." He makes half a dozen references to Lucky Strike cigarettes, for example, but a little research shows that they were indeed popular in the period. If Brandreth made any slipups, I couldn't catch them.

Surprisingly, Wilde's homosexuality isn't mentioned at all, except for a couple of vague hints. The reason is that the story is told through the eyes of Wilde's friend Robert Sherard, a real person, best known for his later Wilde biography which soft-pedals this aspect of Wilde's life (astonishingly, Sherard claimed to be ignorant of it until the scandal broke in 1895). This is the third of nine (!) books promised in this series, and I look forward to seeing what happens in the later books when Oscar starts feasting with panthers.
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