Gyles Brandreth began his Oscar Wilde Murder Mysteries in grand style. The second book was actually better than the first, and the third, "Oscar Wilde and the Dead Man's Smile", consolidates and improves on that achievement. From a prologue in the Chamber of Horrors at Madame Tussaud's we are taken back eight years, to Wilde's tour of the United States in 1882, where he acquires a valet and is saved from robbery or worse by a sharp-shooting gambler. On the voyage back to Europe he falls in with the great actor-manager Edmond La Grange and agrees to assist him in translating "Hamlet" for production at the Théâtre La Grange in Paris. At Liverpool the customs officials find that, instead of books, one of Wilde's cases contains a dead dog. The greater part of the story takes place in Paris, where Oscar Wilde meets his Boswell for the first time, in the person of Robert Sherard, the narrator of these histories. (Sherard, who knew Mr Brandreth's father, actually was a friend of Wilde's, and his first biographer.) When Wilde's valet, now La Grange's dresser, is killed, Sherard takes over his rôle, and witnesses both the triumphant production of Shakespeare's tragedy and the disintegration of the company. La Grange's children, his Hamlet and Ophelia, die suddenly and spectacularly. Finally La Grange himself is killed in his dressing room. In an epilogue, again at Madame Tussaud's, Wilde and Sherard discuss the case with Arthur Conan Doyle, and the truth emerges at last -- as does the macabre significance of the book's title. "Oscar Wilde and the Dead Man's Smile" is an exceptionally good detective story (at one stage, I think, Gyles Brandreth borrows inspiration from John Dickson Carr, the greatest writer in the genre). It's also a fascinating historical novel. Paris in 1883, little more than a decade since the Prussian siege, is a mixture of beauty, decadence, high civilisation and deep cruelty -- a Jekyll-and-Hyde city that becomes a major character, as alive as Sarah Bernhardt, James Russell Lowell, John Tussaud and the other dramatis personae.