Oscar Wilde and the Dead Man’s Smile

Written by Gyles Brandreth
Review by Mary K. Bird-Guilliams

Oscar Wilde sails back to Europe after one of his visits to the United States, where this latest mystery begins to unfold with the death of an obnoxious poodle. Most of the story takes place in Paris among the theater circles, where Oscar is assisting with an adaptation of Hamlet for the French stage. With the death of the star’s dresser, the theater family staging the play appears to be as cursed as that of the Danish prince. While Oscar and his friends investigate the events, the actors and actresses, including the Divine Sarah (Sarah Bernhardt), indulge themselves in the “art of life.” My favorite line “Darjeeling tea and Swiss absinthe, cucumber sandwiches and pipes of hashishin were served,” illustrates this rather well. Crossing the strata of society at will allowed Oscar Wilde unique perspectives during this period of his life and this makes for another vastly entertaining novel among the rich, the artistic, the working classes and the outcasts.