Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I know it has become fashionable to have famous authors solving crimes in modern mystery novels, so I was anxious to see what Oscar was up to in the book Oscar Wilde and a Death of No Importance by Gyles Brandreth. Oscar turns up at a house to meet . . . let's see, was it a pupil or a friend or a young man for an illicit tryst? I forget in the mish-mash of the events of this confusing and not very interesting novel. Anyway, while at this house, Wilde discovers the body of one of his "beautiful young men," with its throat cut. However, there is no report of the body being discovered, and when Wilde and a friend return the next day, all traces of the murder are gone. So did the murder even happen? Aside from Robert Sherard, Wilde's friend and the constantly bewildered narrator of the story, no less a figure than Arthur Conan Doyle is occasionally trotted out to . . . um, I'm not sure what his purpose was, but he doesn't seem to have much to do with the story.

Wilde and the assorted characters in the book are forever rushing here and there, having conversations that lead nowhere and basically wasting time as absolutely nothing happens. Everyone behaves in an odd manner: from Wilde himself, forever sneaking off for unknown reasons and lying to Sherard, to the police who say they're investigating the case of the missing boy but do nothing, to Veronica Sutherland, a young woman who flirts and holds hands with Sherard in full view of her apparently unconcerned fiancé. It's hard to be drawn into the story when it consists of a bunch of characters wandering about aimlessly and unconvincingly. Plenty of Wilde's famous witticisms are sprinkled about the story, but even that can't save it. There have been two more books in the series since this first one, so maybe they improve, but I don't think I can take more meandering around . . . even if the characters are mostly moseying around in London!
Final Verdict for Oscar Wilde and a Death of No Importance: One Gherkin, for being spectacularly dull, but having the saving grace of Wilde's amusing observations thrown in


EAS Loomis said...

Great post and great minds think alike. I just got back from Paris and did a post on public transport www.toeinthethames.blogspot!

Lisanne624 said...

Your trip sounded really great! I remember the Paris subway as being a nightmare, but maybe it's improved since I was there (it was ages ago!). Glad you had fun!

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I'm a librarian who is interested in all things British. I try to visit London as often as possible, and am always planning my next trip. I lived in Sweden for a few years with my Swedish husband, so the occasional Swedish reference may occur . . .

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