Summary and book reviews of Oscar Wilde and a Death of No Importance by Gyles Brandreth

Oscar Wilde and a Death of No Importance

By Gyles Brandreth

Oscar Wilde and a Death of No Importance
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Hardcover: Jan 2008,
    368 pages.
    Paperback: Jan 2008,
    368 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Vy Armour

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About this Book

Book Summary

Lovers of historical mystery will relish this chilling Victorian tale based on real events and cloaked in authenticity. Best of all, it casts British literature's most fascinating and controversial figure as the lead sleuth.

A young artist's model has been murdered, and legendary wit Oscar Wilde enlists his friends Arthur Conan Doyle and Robert Sherard to help him investigate. But when they arrive at the scene of the crime they find no sign of the gruesome killing -- save one small spatter of blood, high on the wall. Set in London, Paris, Oxford, and Edinburgh at the height of Queen Victoria's reign, here is a gripping eyewitness account of Wilde's secret involvement in the curious case of Billy Wood, a young man whose brutal murder served as the inspiration for The Picture of Dorian Gray. Told by Wilde's contemporary -- poet Robert Sherard -- this novel provides a fascinating and evocative portrait of the great playwright and his own "consulting detective," Sherlock Holmes creator, Arthur Conan Doyle.

(Oscar Wilde and a Death of No Importance was first published in the UK as Oscar Wilde and the Candlelight Murders.)

The good die first,
And they whose hearts are dry as summer dust
Burn to the socket.

William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
 

Chapter One
31 August 1889

On an afternoon ablaze with sunshine, at the very end of August 1889, a man in his mid-thirties -- tall, a little overweight, and certainly overdressed -- was admitted to a small terraced house in Cowley Street, in the City of Westminster, close by the Houses of Parliament.

The man was in a hurry and he was unaccustomed to hurrying. His face was flushed and his high forehead was beaded with perspiration. As he entered the house - No. 23 Cowley Street - he brushed past the woman who opened the door to him, immediately crossed the shallow hallway, and climbed the staircase to the first floor. There, facing him, across an uncarpeted landing, was a wooden door.

Momentarily, the man paused -- to smile, to catch his breath, to adjust his waistcoat, and, with both hands, to sweep back his wavy chestnut-...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Discussion Questions

  1. Wilde theorizes on page 171, "'Suspense is everything! Only the banal -- only the bearded and the bald -- live for the here-and-now. You and I, Robert, we live for the future, do we not? We live in anticipation." How does the author build suspense throughout the story? In what ways, if any, does the tone of the book change as the characters get closer to solving the mystery?
     
  2. What is Oscar Wilde's concept of truth? How does he display this concept in his actions and his descriptions of other's actions? Begin by examining page 261.
     
  3. On page 38, Oscar says, "I have changed my mind since then. Consistency, as you know, is the last refuge of the unimaginative." ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

Mystery fans of deductive reasoning will appreciate this first book in the series, especially knowing that there will be eight more opportunities to enjoy Oscar Wilde as amateur sleuth.   (Reviewed by Vy Armour).

Full Review Members Only (1203 words).

Media Reviews
Library Journal

Brandreth...spins a tale of human frailty and self-preservation...a promising start.

Publishers Weekly

Oscar Wilde makes a stylish sleuth in this clever series debut.

Booklist

Starred Review. A first-class stunner...[A] wow of a history-mystery...fascinating.

Sunday Times (UK)

A witty fin de si├Ęcle entertainment, and the rattlingly elegant dialogue is peppered with witticisms uttered by Wilde well before he ever thought of putting them into his plays.

Sunday Express (UK)

Genius...Wilde has sprung back to life in this thrilling and richly atmospheric new novel.... Magnificent...an unforgettable shocker about sex and vice, love and death.

Author Blurb Anne Perry
I always wanted to meet Oscar Wilde and now I feel that I have done, and shared a terrific, bizarre and frightening adventure with him. I recommend the experience.

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Did you know?

Although married and the father of two children, Wilde's intimate association with Alfred Douglas led to his trial on charges of homosexuality (illegal in Britain in 1895). Wilde was sentenced to two years hard labor for the crime of sodomy. In spite of his fame as a successful playwright including The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) and A Woman of No Importance (1893) he died penniless in 1900 in a cheap hotel in Paris at the age of 46. More about Wilde at the official website owned by CMG Worldwide, who appear to have a thriving business protecting the intellectual property rights of dead celebrities!

In The Death of No Importance, Oscar Wilde makes reference to Dr. Thomas Holmes, often referred ...

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