Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Review: Oscar Wilde and the Candlelight Murders (audio book)

Oscar Wilde and the Candlelight Murders by Gyles Brandreth, narrated by Bill Wallis (Chivers Audio Books, 10 CDs, Sep 2008, ISBN: 9781405684613)

This is the first in what I've heard is a projected ten books series. Three so far have been published and the first two are available in audio book format.

I've been intrigued by these for a while but finally pushed myself to try one as Gyles Brandreth was a guest at Crime Fest this year (and will be the toastmaster next year).

In Oscar Wilde and the Candlelight Murders the story is quite straightforward. In the first few minutes Oscar strides into a house on Cowley Street and finds the body of a young boy, his throat is cut and he is surrounded by candles. The boy, Billy Wood, is a friend of Oscar's. However Oscar does not report his finding for 24 hours and when he returns to the room, the body is gone. The police won't investigate without a body so it's up to Oscar and his friend and narrator of these books, Robert Sherard, to solve the crime.

The downside to this book, for me, is the lack of actual detection. Very little information is uncovered and yet half way through, Oscar says he knows the murderer. But then nothing much happens again until the last three discs. The story ends with a classic "gather the suspects in the drawing room" session but the denouement won't completely surprise crime fiction fans. On the positive side, and what has made me reserve the next book in the series, Oscar Wilde and the Ring of Death, is Oscar and his milieu. Oscar is a fascinating creature, with an endless supply of witticisms and is friend to the great and the good, such as Arthur Conan Doyle, Henry Irving and Millais. Listening to this book made me itch to learn more about these people and of course Oscar.

This book is set in 1889 - 1890, the next one begins is 1892. Unless Oscar gets very busy, it seems that some the later books in the series will have to take place after Oscar's stay in prison.

Bill Wallis provides a compelling narration as always, switching from an English accent to Irish and Scottish accents faultlessly and he gives Oscar the flamboyance you'd expect.

The US title for this book is Oscar Wilde and a Death of No Importance

The Euro Crime page with links to reviews and author website is here.

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