Oscar Wilde and the Vampire Murders
Review: Oscar Wilde's good friend and scribe, journalist Robert Sherard, presents all the materials surrounding the mysterious death of the Duchess of Albemarle following a party at their Grosvenor Square home in 1890, in Oscar Wilde and the Vampire Murders, the fourth mystery in this series by Gyles Brandreth.
Helen Mary Alice, the young wife of the Duke of Albemarle is, indeed, dead but the cause of death is uncertain. Her physician insists it is a fatal heart attack, though she was only 31. Yet there are recent scratches across her breast and, more ominously, two deep puncture wounds in her neck. The Prince of Wales, who was in attendance at the party, summons Oscar Wilde and Arthur Conan Doyle to look into the matter privately, to assure him that nothing about the death could cause a scandal for the royal family.
It is a murder mystery and yet it's fact, beyond dispute. I have gathered all the papers — the cuttings, the correspondence. Arthur [Conan Doyle] will allow us to quote from his journals. I have [Rex] LaSalle's diary and Bram's [Stoker] letters — and even one of the policeman's notebooks. I have included the telegrams from Marlborough House. It's all here. — Robert Sherard to Oscar Wilde, March 1900, 10 years following the death of the Duchess of Albemarle.
Oscar Wilde and the Vampire Murders is a most entertaining mystery as one accompanies Oscar Wilde around London — even to Paris — in the course of his investigation as to who murdered the Duchess, as indeed he firmly believes, the physician's official certificate of death notwithstanding. The obvious suspect is a self-proclaimed vampire, Oscar's new friend Rex LaSalle, but Oscar believes Rex to be simply affecting an exotic personage in an effort to stand apart from the crowd; a vampire he most definitely is not. Rex was in attendance at the ball the night of the Duchess's death, so in principle he is a suspect … but then again so are a hundred or so of his fellow attendees. But when another woman is murdered — this time, it is unambiguously murder — and who also displays two deep puncture wounds on her neck, there are only 14 suspects. Oscar is sure one of them is the culprit; now he only needs to determine the motive to identify the killer.
Clearly part of the appeal of Oscar Wilde and the Vampire Murders is in comparing and contrasting the various narratives supplied in the text, most by Robert Sherard and involving Oscar himself, but others from the perspective of Arthur Conan Doyle, who had already published several Sherlock Holmes stories by this time, and Bram Stoker, who was researching vampires in anticipation of writing what will eventually become his most famous novel, Dracula. Each has a different take on Oscar — he's always the center of attention — but all work together to help him solve the crime in the end (even if they, themselves, don't have a clue!). This isn't a very demanding mystery from a whodunit standpoint, but it is certainly an enjoyable one.
Acknowledgment: Simon & Schuster provided an ARC of Oscar Wilde and the Vampire Murders for this review.
Review Copyright © 2011 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Oscar Wilde and the Dead Man's Smile
Touchstone (Hardcover), September 2009
ISBN-13: 9781439137284; ISBN-10: 1439137285
Oscar Wilde and the Vatican Murders
Touchstone (Hardcover), May 2012
ISBN-13: 9781439153741; ISBN-10: 1439153744
Location(s) referenced in Oscar Wilde and the Vampire Murders: London, England
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Oscar Wilde and the Vampire Murders by Gyles Brandreth — An Oscar Wilde Mystery
Publication Date: May 2011
List Price: $24.00