Sunday, February 2, 2014

Oscar Wilde and the Vampire Murders, by Gyles Brandreth. Touchstone, 2011

This is the fourth in the Oscar Wilde mysteries series, taking place in 1890. A noblewoman is found dead in her house, half naked, with cuts on her torso and two deep puncture marks on her neck. It looks like she’s been murdered, but the doctor insists she died of a heart attack despite being quite young. And what are the wounds from? Figuring it out isn’t made any easier by the fact that the death is being kept hushed up because the Prince of Wales, as well as his son, Prince Albert Victor, were present at the time. When another death occurs at a theater- again with the Prince of Wales and his son present- solving the crime becomes more urgent. Just as urgent is keeping the father and son princes free of any association with the deaths; the Prince of Wales needs to try and clean up his womanizing image before his mother dies and he becomes king, while some people have the theory that the young Prince Albert Victor might be Jack the Ripper. They don’t need anything else adding to the rumor mill. Meanwhile, Oscar has been in the company of a handsome young man who claims to be a vampire. Are the deaths murders; if so, are they supernatural in nature? This is what Oscar must figure out, and quickly.

 Sadly, I did not enjoy this book as much as I did the others in the series I have read. The story is told through excerpts from letters, diaries, and newspaper clippings, changing point of view every few pages. The various authors include Bram Stoker, Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Sherard (Wilde’s real life biographer), Wilde himself, Rex LaSalle the self professed vampire, and others. I found it difficult to keep track of who was writing what entry because it changed so often. The setting and events are brilliantly described; the late Victorian era is lovingly limned by Brandreth’s pen. But most of the characters aren’t very well developed, the pace is slow, the plot lacking, the ending seems contrived and unsatisfying, and the story just never really comes to life. It almost seemed like notes for a better novel; I suspect the method of telling via excerpts of various people’s writings led me to this feeling. It’s not a bad book but it’s certainly not Brandreth’s best. 


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