Oscar Wilde and a Death of No Importance

A Mystery

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About The Book

Lovers of historical mysteries will relish this chilling Victorian tale based on real events and cloaked in authenticity. The first in a series of fiendishly clever historical murder mysteries, it casts British literature’s most fascinating and controversial figure as the lead sleuth.

A young artist’s model has been murdered, and legendary wit Oscar Wilde enlists his friends Arthur Conan Doyle and Robert Sherard to help him investigate. But when they arrive at the scene of the crime they find no sign of the gruesome killing—save one small spatter of blood, high on the wall. Set in London, Paris, Oxford, and Edinburgh at the height of Queen Victoria’s reign, here is a gripping eyewitness account of Wilde’s secret involvement in the curious case of Billy Wood, a young man whose brutal murder served as the inspiration for The Picture of Dorian Gray. Told by Wilde’s contemporary—poet Robert Sherard—this novel provides a fascinating and evocative portrait of the great playwright and his own “consulting detective,” Sherlock Holmes creator, Arthur Conan Doyle.

Reading Group Guide

Group Discussion Questions
1. Wilde theorizes on page 171, "'Suspense is everything! Only the banal -- only the bearded and the bald -- live for the here-and-now. You and I, Robert, we live for the future, do we not? We live in anticipation." How does the author build suspense throughout the story? In what ways, if any, does the tone of the book change as the characters get closer to solving the mystery?
2. What is Oscar Wilde's concept of truth? How does he display this concept in his actions and his descriptions of other's actions? Begin by examining page 261.
3. On page 38, Oscar says, "I have changed my mind since then. Consistency, as you know, is the last refuge of the unimaginative." Does this way of thinking describe the reasoning behind Wilde's actions throughout the story? If so, in what way?
4. Based on evidence in the book, why is Oscar determined to discover Billy Wood's murderer? Can we trust the reasons he provides?
5. All the information that we learn about Oscar is told to us through the pen of Robert Sherard. How might Sherard's own personal prejudices color the descriptions of Wilde that eventually reach the reader?
6. Veronica Sutherland is an intelligent woman trapped in a time period in which women have limited options. Do you sympathize with her situation and the decisions she makes?
7. On page 170, Oscar says, "It is a humiliating confession...but we are all of us made out of the same stuff....Sooner or later, one comes to that dreadful universal thing called human nature." Do the events of the book reinforce this conclusion? If so, how?
8. How do the main characters of the book differ in their interpretations of what love is? What does the book ultimately say about love? For a formulation of Oscar's personal opinion, see page 41.
Creative Tips for Enhancing Your Book Club
1. The main characters of this book are all well-known authors in their own rights. Choose one of the works of Oscar Wilde, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, or Robert Sherard as the book for your next book-club reading. Try starting with Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, which he was in the process of writing during the events of this book.
2. Explore the exciting history of Oscar Wilde's real life by visiting http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oscar_wilde. What were the details of his literary success at a young age and how did he end up spending two years in jail? Assign a different topic of research to each person in the group and bring in your results to share.
3. Find out more about the author by visiting his website, www.gylesbrandreth.net/index.html. Or, get ready for the next book in the Oscar Wilde Murder Mystery series by visiting www.oscarwildemurdermysteries.com.
4. Make a group date to attend a performance of one of Oscar Wilde's plays. Check local listings to see what is being performed near you. You may even wish to rent the DVD 2002 feature film of Oscar's most famous play, The Importance of Being Earnest.

About The Author

Gyles Brandreth

Gyles Brandreth is a prominent BBC broadcaster, novelist, biographer, and a former Member of Parliament. He is also the author of the Oscar Wilde Mystery series. Find out more at GylesBrandreth.net.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Touchstone (January 8, 2008)
  • Length: 288 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781416553793

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Raves and Reviews

"I always wanted to meet Oscar Wilde and now I feel that I have done, and shared a terrific, bizarre and frightening adventure with him. I recommend the experience." -- Anne Perry

"Brandreth's accomplishment is evident in the force of Wilde's personality, which fairly leaps off the page...readers will delight in the effortless characterization and deft portrait of late-Victorian England." -- Stephanie Barron, author of Jane and the Barque of Frailty

"A witty fin de siècle entertainment, and the rattlingly elegant dialogue is peppered with witticisms uttered by Wilde well before he ever thought of putting them into his plays." -- Sunday Times (London)

"Genius...Wilde has sprung back to life in this thrilling and richly atmospheric new novel.... Magnificent...an unforgettable shocker about sex and vice, love and death." -- Sunday Express

"This excellent novel...I'd be staggered if, by the end of 2007, you'd read many better whodunnits. Brandreth demonstrates supremely measured skill as a storyteller." -- Nottingham Evening Post

"Wilde as detective is thoroughly convincing.... The period, and the two or three worlds in which Wilde himself moved, are richly evoked...an excellent detective story. I'm keenly looking forward to the rest of the series." -- The District Messenger, journal of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London

"Brandreth...spins a tale of human frailty and self-preservation...a promising start." -- Library Journal

"Oscar Wilde makes a stylish sleuth in this clever series debut." -- Publishers Weekly

"A first-class stunner...[A] wow of a history-mystery...fascinating..." -- Booklist (Starred review)

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