Oscar Wilde and the Vatican Murders (title in UK & USA)‘Murder can sometimes be amusing.
The death of a child never.’
| Reading Group
In 1892 an exhausted Arthur Conan Doyle retires to the spa at Bad Homburg with a portmanteau of fan mail. But his rest cure does not go as planned.
The first person he encounters is Oscar Wilde and when the two friends make a series of macabre discoveries amongst the letters - a severed finger,
a lock of hair and, finally, an entire severed hand - the game is once more afoot.
The trail leads to Rome, to the very heart of the Eternal City, the Vatican itself - and to a case that involves miracles as well as murder.
To discover why the creator of Sherlock Holmes has been summoned to the Holy See in this sinister fashion, Oscar and Conan Doyle must penetrate the innermost
circle of the Catholic Church - and uncover the deadly secrets of the seven men closest to the pope.
‘Oscar Wilde and the Vatican Murders by Gyles Brandreth opens in 1892 in
the German spa town of Bad Homburg, where Arthur Conan Doyle is
taking a few days’ break to catch up with his - and his fictional
detective’s - correspondence. A chance meeting with Oscar Wilde and
the discovery of three unexpected objects among the letters and
packages addressed to Sherlock Holmes lead the two to Rome. The
objects are a lock of hair, a severed hand and a severed finger, but the
bodies they came from must have been long dead - so what do they
signify? Who sent them, and why? In Rome, the two must tread very
carefully. They may have been summoned by one of the Pope’s
chaplains. Or by the new Anglican chaplain in Rome. Or by someone at
the British Embassy. Or even by the remarkable Swedish doctor, Axel
Munthe. Oscar encounters an old enemy and Arthur meets an old
schoolfellow, but intrigue and dissimulation abound, murder is
committed in the heart of the Holy See, and another murder waits to be
discovered. It’s Conan Doyle who acts as Wilde’s assistant in this, the
fifth volume in the series, and it’s he who tells the tale, many years later,
in the knowledge, which we share, that destruction would soon come
upon his friend. Gyles Brandreth’s writing is, as always, completely
assured. Both portraits have the authentic touch, and Wilde’s
conversation is pure gold. The subsidiary characters are splendidly
drawn, as is the setting; the mystery baffles, and its solution dazzles.
Was Oscar Wilde the inspiration for Mycroft Holmes, as Mr Brandreth
suggests? You know, I rather think he was!’ Roger Johnson, The District Messenger, The Newsletter of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London, 2011
‘A flight of imagination that partners Oscar Wilde with Arthur Conan Doyle in a deadly pursuit to the heart of the Eternal City merits a round of
applause for sheer chutzpah. But it is one thing to set up an improbably tall tale and quite another to sustain reader interest and credulity for an entire book.
Where many others have failed the test, Gyles Brandreth succeeds magnificently. This is partly because the relationship between the two writers - with Conan Doyle
playing Watson to super sleuth Wilde - is drawn so convincingly, but there is also dialogue of the period without any Victorian heaviness and a plot that is
intriguing throughout...Brandreth’s research is impeccable. Literary and theological references merge easily into a skilfully crafted story that goes all the
way to meet the standards set by his two eminent protagonists.’
Daily Mail, London, 2011