Oscar Wilde and a Game Called Murder: A Mystery (Oscar Wilde Murder Mystery Series)

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9781416534846: Oscar Wilde and a Game Called Murder: A Mystery (Oscar Wilde Murder Mystery Series)
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The second witty installment in an astonishingly authentic historical mystery series featuring detective Oscar Wilde and his partner in crime, Arthur Conan Doyle

It's 1892, and Wilde is the toast of London, riding high on the success of his play Lady Windemere's Fan. While celebrating with friends at a dinner party he conjures up a game called "murder" that poses the question: Who would you most like to kill? Wilde and friends -- including Arthur Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker, and poet Robert Sherard (the novel's narrator) -- write the names of their "victims" on pieces of paper and choose them one by one. After leaving the party, Wilde scoffs at the suggestion that he may have instigated a very dangerous game indeed....

The very next day, the game takes an all-too- sinister turn when the first "victim" turns up dead. Soon Wilde and his band of amateur detectives must travel through the realms of politics, theatre, and even boxing to unearth whose misguided passions have the potential to become deadly poisons...not only for the perpetrator of the seemingly perfect crimes but also for the trio of detectives investigating them.

Richly atmospheric and as entertaining as Wilde himself, this book is the second in a series destined to delight mystery readers and fans of historical fiction alike.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Gyles Brandreth is a prominent BBC broadcaster, theatre producer, novelist, and biographer. He has written bestselling biographies of Britain’s royal family and an acclaimed diary of his years as a member of Parliament. Visit OscarWildeMurderMysteries.net.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1

The Fortune-Teller

It was Sunday, 1 May 1892, a cold day, though the sun was bright. I recall in particular the way in which a brilliant shaft of afternoon sunlight filtered through the first-floor front window of No. 16 Tite Street, Chelsea -- the London home of Oscar and Constance Wilde -- and perfectly illuminated two figures sitting close together at a small table, apparently holding hands.

I stood alone, by the window, watching them. One was a woman, a widow, in her early forties, with a pleasing figure, well-held, and a narrow, kindly face -- a little lined, but not care-worn -- and large, knowing eyes. She was dressed all in black silk, and on her head, which she held high, she wore a turban of black velvet featuring a single, startling, silver-and-turquoise peacock's feather. The colour of the feather matched the colour of her hair.

The other figure seated at the table was quite as striking. He was a large man, aged thirty-seven, tall, over-fleshed, with a fine head of thick deep-chestnut hair, large, slightly drooping eyes, and full lips that opened to reveal a wide mouth crowded with ungainly teeth. His skin was pale and pasty, blotched with freckles. He was dressed in a sand-coloured linen suit of his own design. At his neck, he sported a loose-fitting linen tie of Lincoln green and, in his button-hole, a fresh amaryllis, the colour of coral.

The woman was Mrs. Robinson, clairvoyant to the Prince of Wales among others. The man was Oscar Wilde, poet and playwright, and literary sensation of the age.

Slowly, with gloved fingers, Mrs. Robinson caressed Oscar Wilde's right hand. Repeatedly, she brushed the side of her little finger across his palm. With her right thumb and forefinger she took each of his fingers in turn and, gently, pulled it straight. For a long while she gazed intently at his open hand, saying nothing. Eventually, she lifted his palm to her cheek and held it there. She sighed and closed her eyes and murmured, "I see a sudden death in this unhappy hand. A cruel death, unexpected and unnatural. Is it murder? Is it suicide?"

"Or is it the palmist trying to earn her guinea by adding a touch of melodrama to her reading?" Oscar withdrew his hand from Mrs. Robinson's tender grasp and slapped it on the table, with a barking laugh.

"You go too far, dear lady," he exclaimed. "This is a tea party, and the Thane of Cawdor is not expected. There are children present. You are here to entertain the guests, Mrs. Robinson, not terrify them."

Mrs. Robinson tilted her birdlike head to one side and smiled. "I see what I see," she said, without rancour.

Oscar was smiling also. He turned from the table and looked beyond the pool of sunlight to a young man of military bearing who was standing alone, like me, a yard away, observing the scene. "Come to my rescue, Arthur," he called. "Mrs. Robinson has seen 'a sudden death' in my 'unhappy hand.' You're a medical man. I need a second opinion."

Arthur Conan Doyle was then three weeks away from his thirty-third birthday and already something of a national hero. His "Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" in the Strand magazine were a sensation throughout the land. Doyle himself, in appearance, was more Watson than Holmes. He was a handsome fellow, sturdy and broad-shouldered, with a hearty handshake, beady eyes, and a genial smile that he kept hidden beneath a formidable walrus moustache. He was the best of men, and a true friend to Oscar, in good times and bad.

"I'm no longer practising medicine, Oscar, as you know," he said, moving towards the window table, "but if you want my honest opinion, you should steer well clear of this kind of tomfoolery. It can be dangerous. It leads you know not where." He bowed a little stiffly towards Mrs. Robinson. "No offence intended, madam," he said.

"None taken," she replied, graciously. "The creator of Sherlock Holmes can do no wrong in my eyes."

Doyle's cheeks turned scarlet. He blushed readily. "You are too kind," he mumbled awkwardly.

"You are too ridiculous, Arthur. Pay no attention to him, Mrs. R. He's all over the place. I'm not surprised. He's moved to South Norwood -- wherever that may be."

"It's not far," Doyle protested.

"It's a world away, Arthur, and you know it. That's why you were late."

"I was late because I was completing something."

"Your sculpture. Yes, I know. Sculpture is your new enthusiasm."

Conan Doyle stood back from the table. "How do you know that?" he exclaimed. "I have mentioned it to no one -- to no one at all."

"Oh, come now, Arthur," said Oscar, getting to his feet, smiling and inclining his head to Mrs. Robinson as he left the table. "I heard you telling my wife about the spacious hut at the end of your new garden and the happy hours you are intending to spend there, 'in the cold and the damp.' Only a sculptor loves a cold, damp room: it's ideal for keeping his clay moist."

"You amaze me, Oscar."

"Mrs. Robinson would have uncovered your secret, too -- by the simple expedient of examining your fingernails. Look at them, Arthur. They give the whole game away!"

"You are extraordinary, Oscar. I marvel at you. You know that I plan to include you in one of my stories -- as Sherlock Holmes's older brother?"

"Yes, you have told me -- he is to be obese and indolent, as I recall. I'm flattered."

Conan Doyle laughed and slapped Oscar on the shoulder with disconcerting force. "I'm glad I came to your party, my friend," he said, "despite the company you keep."

"It is not my party, Arthur. It is Constance's party. The guests are all alarmingly respectable and the cause is undeniably just."

The party -- for about forty guests, men, women, and children -- was a fund-raiser in aid of one of Constance Wilde's favourite charities, the Rational Dress Society. The organization, inspired by the example of Amelia Bloomer in the United States, was dedicated to promoting fashions for women that did not "deform the body or endanger it." The Society believed that no woman should be forced to endure the discomfort and risk to health of overly tight-laced and restrictive corsetry, nor be obliged to wear, in total, more than seven pounds of undergarments. Constance spoke poignantly of the plight of so many women -- scores of them each year: young and old, serving girls and ladies of rank -- who were either maimed or burned to death when their voluminous skirts, petticoats, and underpinnings accidentally caught on a candle or brushed by a hearth and were set alight.

Oscar and Arthur stood together looking about the room. Conan Doyle leant forward, resting his hands on the back of one of the Wildes' black-and-white bamboo chairs. "The cause is indeed a good one," he said. "Rest assured: I have subscribed." He smiled at Oscar, adding, "I remain to be convinced, however, about the complete respectability of the guests. For example, who are those two?" He nodded towards the piano.

"Ah," said Oscar, "Miss Bradley and Miss Cooper."

"They look like chimney-sweeps."

"Yes," said Oscar, squinting at the ladies. "They do appear to have come en travestie. I think the costumes are deliberate. They probably wanted to bring us luck. They are not chimney-sweeps by trade. They are poetesses. Or, rather, I should say, 'they are a poet.' They write together, under a single name. They call themselves 'Michael Field.'"

"I observed them in the hallway, smoking cigarettes, and kissing one another, upon the lips."

"Extraordinary," said Oscar, shaking his head wanly, "especially when you consider the amount of influenza sweeping through Chelsea this spring."

"And what about the unhealthy-looking gentleman over there? He has the appearance of a dope-fiend, Oscar."

"George Daubeney?" exclaimed Oscar. "The Hon. the Reverend George Daubeney? He's a clergyman, Arthur, and the son of an earl."

"Is he, now?" replied Doyle, chuckling. "Why do I recognise the name?"

"It has been in all the papers, alas. The Reverend George was sued for breach of promise. It was a messy business. He lost the case and his entire fortune with it."

"He has a weak mouth," said Conan Doyle.

"And a stern father who declines to bail him out, I'm afraid. I like him, however. He is assistant chaplain at the House of Commons and part-time padre to Astley's Circus on the south side of Westminster Bridge."

"No wonder you like him, Oscar! You cannot resist the improbable."

Now it was Oscar's turn to chuckle. He touched Conan Doyle on the elbow and invited his friend to scan the room. "Look about you, Arthur. You are a man who has seen the world, the best and worst of it. You have journeyed to the Arctic in a whaler. You have lived in Southsea out of season. You are familiar with all types and conditions of men. Consider the assorted individuals gathered in this drawing-room this afternoon and tell me which one of them, to you, looks to be the most incontrovertibly 'respectable.'"

Doyle was entertained by the challenge. He stepped back and stood, arms akimbo, fists on hips. He pursed his lips and narrowed his eyes and, slowly, carefully, surveyed the scene before him. Constance had gathered a motley crowd to her charitable tea party. "What precisely am I looking for, Oscar?"

"The acme of respectability," said Oscar. "The face, the figure, the demeanour, the look that says to you: 'This chap is sound, no doubt about it.'"

"Mm," growled Doyle, taking in the faces around him, turn by turn. "They all look a bit doubtful, don't they?" He looked beyond where George Daubeney was standing, to the doorway, where Charles Brooke, the English Rajah of Sarawak and a particular friend of Constance, was holding court. "Brooke has the look of a leader about him, doesn't he? I know him slightly. He's sound. He's a gentleman."

Oscar raised his forefinger and waved it admonishingly. "No, no, Arthur. Don't tell me about people you already know. I want you to make a judgement entirely on appearance. Look about this room and pick out the one person who strikes you as having a...

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Book Description Touchstone Books, United States, 2008. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English. Brand new Book. The second witty installment in an astonishingly authentic historical mystery series featuring detective Oscar Wilde and his partner in crime, Arthur Conan Doyle It's 1892, and Wilde is the toast of London, riding high on the success of his play Lady Windemere's Fan. While celebrating with friends at a dinner party he conjures up a game called "murder" that poses the question: Who would you most like to kill? Wilde and friends -- including Arthur Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker, and poet Robert Sherard (the novel's narrator) -- write the names of their "victims" on pieces of paper and choose them one by one. After leaving the party, Wilde scoffs at the suggestion that he may have instigated a very dangerous game indeed. The very next day, the game takes an all-too- sinister turn when the first "victim" turns up dead. Soon Wilde and his band of amateur detectives must travel through the realms of politics, theatre, and even boxing to unearth whose misguided passions have the potential to become deadly poisons.not only for the perpetrator of the seemingly perfect crimes but also for the trio of detectives investigating them. Richly atmospheric and as entertaining as Wilde himself, this book is the second in a series destined to delight mystery readers and fans of historical fiction alike. Seller Inventory # AAC9781416534846

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