Oscar Wilde and the Vampire Murders by Gyles Brandreth
Touchstone, May 2011
Trade Paperback, 400 pages
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:
Oscar Wilde and the Vampire Murders opens in 1890, at a glamorous party hosted by the Duke and Duchess of Albemarle. All of London's high society -- including the Prince of Wales -- are in attendance at what promises to be the event of the season. Yet Oscar Wilde is more interested in another party guest, Rex LaSalle, a young actor who claims to be a vampire.
But the entertaining evening ends in tragedy when the duchess is found murdered -- with two tiny puncture marks on her throat. Desperate to avoid scandal and panic, the Prince asks Oscar and his friend Arthur Conan Doyle to investigate the crime. What they discover threatens to destroy the very heart of the royal family. Told through diary entries, newspaper clippings, telegrams, and letters, Oscar Wilde and the Vampire Murders is a richly atmospheric mystery that is sure to captivate and entertain.
I love me some history with mystery and vice versa. Vampires, no, not so much. But last year I read Dracula in Love by Karen Essex and really loved it. The theme of medical experimentation is in both of these books, horrific as the thought is. I knew this Oscar Wilde series by Gyles Brandreth already had accumulated a following due to the prior mysteries, so I wanted to give this fourth one a try. Oscar Wilde was truly an amazing man, and I enjoyed how his character was so efficiently infused in this mystery. The absolute main draw of this mystery was the wittiness of Oscar and his never ending amount of one liners.
Apparently different from the previous forms of the series, this installment utilizes many different narrators as told via notes, letters and diaries. The main characters are all distinguished gentlemen who behaved in similar fashions, so I had to sometimes go back and look at the heading of the particular note or letter to see who was speaking presently. The narrations were short and swiftly changing, hence the minor confusion at times. This would be the only negative about this book, as the story was full of these British guys partying like 1890's rock stars and doing their little investigations of the murders along the way. There was indeed one of those guys who swore he was a vampire, and the murdered victims were adorned with vampire-like wounds, but that was pretty much the extent of the vampiristic tendencies except of course for the men discussing the habits of vampires. The first victim was a beautiful duchess named Helen, whom Oscar liked to quip "She is Helen, late of Troy, now of Grosvenor Square." The sleuths had to decipher whether there was a big cover-up going on because "the prince detests scandal" or was the prince never really involved at all.
Along with Oscar Wilde, other famous notables we have would be his close friend, Bram Stoker, aspiring vampire author, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the slowly becoming famous author of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries. Among the suspect pool we have doctors, Princes, and of course, the vampire friend Rex LaSalle whom Oscar was infatuated with. And then of course there was the magnificent character of Victorian England herself, where the author did a magnificent job of setting the scene and reimagining the cobbled streets of the era. I especially enjoyed the High Tea scenes, where it boasted a feast that excluded only tea. One of the suspects, the Prince of Wales, is the same prince who became Edward VII in 1901, and it was his order that none of this vampire murder business be published while he was alive, which is why we have this splendid story at our disposal now (wink, wink).
And as far as the mystery goes, I had a feeling regarding the whodunit part, but the why part was intriguing as well. The novel was definitely the "rattling good yarn" the author wanted to give us, and I will definitely keep an eye out for his other Oscar Wilde history mysteries since I enjoyed this one so much.
Some witty Oscar Wilde lines in the novel:
"The man who thinks about his past has no future."
"It is, of course, the the second editions of my books that are the true rarities."
"The one duty we owe to history is to rewrite it."