Oscar Wilde and the Dead Manís Smile is an historical fiction written by English author Gyles Brandreth. The story opens at the Chamber of Horrors, the most popular attraction at Madame Tussaudís Baker Street Bazaar.
Narrated by real-life Wilde friend and biographer, Robert Sherard, the fictional account relates how Oscar Wilde gave Arthur Conan Doyle a manuscript that lacks a final chapter. Wilde challenges Doyle to read the book, ponder what he reads, and let Wilde know what he thinks the final chapter should reveal.
The mystery begins with the escapades of Wilde as he travels around the United States on a lecture tour in 1882. Along the way, he meets P.T. Barnum, sees Jumbo the Elephant, and becomes involved in a saloon shoot out in Leadville, Colorado.
Just as he is about to leave the States, he meets the great Edmond La Grange of the Compagnie La Grange, a famous French Theatre dynasty. La Grange was one of Wildeís boyhood heroes, according to the fictional account, and he was honored when La Grange asked Wilde to help him prepare for a production of Hamlet by assisting with the translation to French. Wilde agreed, and they travel to France on the SS Bothnia.
During the journey, Wilde found with the famous family not all was as it seemed. After arriving in France, a series of mysterious incidents took place with Wilde thrown into the midst of the investigations.
Oscar Wilde and the Dead Man's Smile is the third in the series, but the first that I have read in this unexpectedly delightful story. The premise of using a real-life person from the past and writing an interesting mystery using real and pretend characters provides a plot device for those who like something other than the usual whodunit.
There is much name-dropping throughout this book with witty banter bringing needed amusement and comedy-relief to a sometimes harsh and heavy mystery. The mystery portion provides an unexpected reveal, and then the story moves into the discussion between Wilde and Doyle.
Oscar Wilde was an Irish poet and playwright well known for his biting wit. Performance of his best-known play, The Importance of Being Earnest, continues to this day. Wilde died in 1900 at the age of 46 in Paris, France.
Overall, Oscar Wilde and the Dead Manís Smile is a satisfying historical adventure novel. The series is quickly becoming popular among mystery fans, and we hope to see the next installment soon.