Monday, June 13, 2011
Oscar Wilde & the Vampire Murders: Review
In the interview at the back of Oscar Wilde & the Vampire Murders Gyles Brandreth says that one of the the things he wants most as a writer is "to write what the Victorians would have called 'a rattling good yarn'...I want to leave the reader satisfied." I would say that Brandreth does just that in all of his Oscar Wilde mystery stories--of which the Vampire Murders is the fourth.
Having read the first three, I was very ready to snatch this one up when it appeared on the library's New Arrivals shelf. And I wasn't disappointed. I'm not much for the latest vampire craze--no Twilight for me, sorry--but Brandreth uses the vampire legend to good effect and as good cover for his murderer. He employs diary entries, newspaper clippings, telegrams, letters and straight narrative to tell his story. In other hands the switch from medium to medium might have distracted, but the varied approach seemed to suit the story.
The story itself begins with a reception held at the home of the Duke and Duchess of Albemarle. Oscar Wilde and his right-hand man Robert Sherard have been invited as well as the Prince of Wales and his son Prince Albert Victor; Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle; and Lord Yarborough, a physician and nerve specialist. In the course of the evening, Wilde becomes enchanted with a young man by the name of Rex LaSalle who claims to be a vampire. It will remain to be seen how long the enchantment lasts when the Duchess is found dead--brutally wounded on the chest and with two deep puncture wounds on her neck. Is this murder or has some romantic interlude gone too far? The Prince of Wales himself requests that Oscar look discreetly into the matter and soon the witty author and playwright finds that there are deeper matters on hand than may first appear. A visit to the Vampire Club, a hurried journey to Paris and two more deaths will be necessary before Wilde can put all the clues together to unmask the culprit. Is it a true vampire? Is it a unscrupulous physician looking for bodies for his research? Or perhaps a royal son who truly is mad and has resorted to murder? Or...someone the reader will least suspect?
I love these stories. Brandreth absolutely gets his research right. You can tell he knows his Wilde and his Victoriana--but the research does not weigh down the story. If anything I would call these stories brain candy. Not because they are so light-weight and fluffy, but because they are addictive and fun to consume--like popping M&Ms. The characters and settings feel authentic and the action is fast-paced and enjoyable. Wilde fans will enjoy the way that Brandreth sprinkles all those famous aphorisms throughout the dialogue...and he does it without it seeming forced. Delightful! Four stars out of five.