Author: Gyles Brandreth
Publisher: John Murray, Hachette
Genre: Satirical crime thriller
Pages: 448 pages
Why I chose to read this book? Love the author he is a tour de force in the entertainment industry.
Where to read this book? Beaufort Bar in the Savoy London.
Refreshments: Dry gin martini with smoked salmon and caviar – anything you can put your hands on that nods to excess.
Featuring Oscar Wilde and Arthur Conan Doyle, a parlour game of ‘Murder’ has lethal consequences ‘I see murder in this unhappy hand…’ When Mrs Robinson, palmist to the Prince of Wales, reads Oscar Wilde’s palm she cannot know what she has predicted. Nor can Oscar know what he has set in motion when, that same evening, he proposes a game of ‘Murder’ in which each of his Sunday Supper Club guests must write down those whom they would like to kill. For the fourteen ‘victims’ begin to die mysteriously, one by one, and in the order in which their names were drawn from the bag. With growing horror, Wilde and his confidantes Robert Sherard and Arthur Conan Doyle, realise that one of their guests that evening must be the murderer. In a race against time, Wilde will need all his powers of deduction and knowledge of human behaviour before he himself – the thirteenth name on the list – becomes the killer’s next victim.
The characters of this story are naturally well-known spanning Wilde, Conan Doyle and Walter Sickert however, I despised the character of Wilde he was arrogant, superior and overwhelmingly smug. The one I enjoyed the most was Sickert he was whimsical, innocent and enormously entertaining and throughout the narrative wandered in an out like a welcome friend. Equally notable is the gorgeously statuesque individual of boxer McMuirtree whose mysterious nature is improved substantially by his ability to mock whilst being completely charming.
Brandreth’s central crime is interesting but quite slow-moving and it is not until half-way through the book that we get to anything close to grit – and indeed it is only one murder that truly makes you rather uncomfortable as a reader. The depth of the psychology of the crime makes the story stronger but it does pootle along with Wilde at its core that does result in a certain blandness.
The style of writing is quite simplistic and, as I touched upon in an earlier post, it’s irritating that a number of the known characters are full-named repeatedly and for little reason for a good few chapters. However, dotted throughout the entire book is Gyles’ acerbic wit and devilish turn of phrase that provides the ingenuity and talent that we know and love Brandreth.
Overall, and loathe to admit it, I was slightly disappointed with the book. This may be partly because I am a Brandreth super fan and therefore had unreasonably high expectations however, it could also be that the narrative was on the side of, dare I say, dull.
Rating: 6 out of 10