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Oscar Wilde and the Dead Man's Smile: A Mystery Paperback – Sep 1 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone (Sept. 1 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416534857
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416534853
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 13.5 x 2.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 322 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #298,677 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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By heep on Jan. 9 2012
Format: Paperback
This is a fun read, like the earlier books in the series. Maybe not as good as the first, but still great.
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Amazon.com: 40 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING WILDE Sept. 30 2009
By Red Rock Bookworm - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product
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). This is a forgivable sin, since Brandreth's Oscar is as completely captivating and entertaining a protagonist as one could ask for.

For anyone who enjoys their historical fiction liberally peppered with recognizable names coupled with an amusing, relatively easy read, OSCAR WILDE AND THE DEAD MAN'S SMILE are well worth your time.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Slow start, but an OK read July 31 2009
By Kaleidocherry - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product
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.) However, at this point of the story when the first murder is committed, before the boat docks in England, there is not yet a motive for any of the three future deaths. The criminal mastermind has no reason to kill until much later in the book. So are we to believe that the mastermind simply wanted a set of four arbitrary deaths, just to show off, and that conveniently, this person later learns that there are people nearby who need to be killed?

I may reread it tonight to see if I misunderstood that part, but it seems to me that is a pretty glaring mistake.

Otherwise, this story hews very closely to the format used by Bayard, where the famous person and his non-famous sidekick work out the mystery to the gratification of the local authorities, and then in a closing chapter the famous person turns the explanation around and shows that it actually happened differently. I really hated this when Bayard did it, but it doesn't bother me in this book, and I don't know why that is.

The book was a satisfying read, and by the second third of the book I was quite content with its narrative and progression. There was a little bit too much about Sherard's personal life, which was slightly detrimental to the story, but these sections are mostly skim-worthy.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Oscar Wilde and the Dead Man's Smile: A Mystery (Oscar Wilde Mysteries) Dec 30 2009
By W. Carter - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product
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?
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Oscar Wilde, Detective? July 31 2009
By Phelps Gates - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product
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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
History or Mystery July 23 2009
By algerina - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Oscar Wilde and the Dead Man's Smile is an interesting combination of fact and fiction.

It is Christmas time in London, Oscar Wilde tours the famous waxworks. Meeting with his new friend Arthur Conan Doyle he presents him with a Christmas present. It is a manuscript which is missing the last chapter. The manuscript describes Wilde's travels to the United States and Paris in the 1889's.

Wilde lectures draw crowds in big cities and in mining towns. He is a celebrity and an oddity, foreigner in velvet trousers. As fascinating as his travels are the plot doesn't begin until well into the book when he meets a professional gambler and the famous La Grange Family, an acting dynasty. He travels with them to Paris in order to work on a translation of Hamlet. Strange and terrible events follow. Are they connected? Are they accidents, suicides or murder? Oscar Wilde plays detective but will he survive to sort out the truth.

Wilde and Doyle meet again at New Years. Doyle presents in solution to the missing chapter and Wilde reveals all.

While this book is well written and interesting, I had some difficulty telling the difference between the very detail facts and the fictional story. I believe if the notes at the end of the book were more detailed I would not have struggled so. Also the mystery is secondary to the story of Wilde himself and his desire for fame. At this point in his life he is almost the Paris Hilton of his time. Today's tabloids would have had a field day.

History buffs and English majors will love this book

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