The Oscar Wilde Murder Mysteries

Dead Man's Smile

Dead Man's Smile

Book 3:

Oscar Wilde and Dead Man’s Smile (title in UK & USA)

Book Description | Reading Group Guide | Q & A with Gyles

Group Discussion Questions

  1. As a reader, what were your first feelings toward Eddie Garstrang? What were your first impressions of Edmund LaGrange? How did your emotions towards these characters change throughout the book? What were major turning points for you?

  2. Oscar Wilde and the Dead Man’s Smile is set in America, London and Paris. Each of these places has unique characteristics, but share some general similarities. How are these places and communities similar and different?

  3. What was the effect of reading the storyline through Robert’s eyes? How would it have been different if Oscar had done the narrating?

  4. Oscar writes in his journal of Madame LaGrange, “Old age has no consolations to offer us. The pulse of joy that beats in us at twenty has become sluggish. Limbs fail, senses rot. We degenerate into hideous puppets, haunted by the memories of the passions of which we were too much afraid, and the exquisite temptations that we had not the courage to yield to.” (p. 47) Do you agree with his harsh words about old age?

  5. Speaking to Robert, Oscar says, “Many a young man starts in life with a natural gift for exaggeration which, if nurtured in congenial and sympathetic surroundings, or by imitation of the best models, might grow into something really great and wonderful. But, as a rule, he comes to nothing. He either falls into careless habits of accuracy or takes to frequenting the society of the aged and well-informed. Both things are equally fatal to his imagination.” (p. 68) Is Oscar right? What does he mean by this statement? Is it directed more at the fate of young men or the essence of imagination?

  6. Throughout the novel, rumor and innuendo play a large role in shaping people’s perceptions. What is different about rumors in the 1890s versus the present day? What is the same? In which time period did rumors play a larger role?

  7. Of morality Oscar says, “I never came across anyone in whom the moral sense was dominant who was not heartless, cruel, vindictive, log-stupid and entirely lacking in the smallest degree of humanity…. I would rather have fifty unnatural vices than one unnatural virtue.” (p. 173) Do you agree with him? What does this quote reveal about Oscar’s perception of the world around him? Do you trust Oscar?

  8. How does the author use language and imagery to bring the characters to life? Did the book's characters or style in any way remind you of another book?

  9. “It’s a story told by actors and, as you should know by now, stories told by actors are rarely to be trusted.” (p. 267) Which of the actors in the story did you trust the most? Trust the least? Why?

  10. Whose story is this? If you had to pick one, is it Oscar’s story, Robert’s or the LaGrange’s? Why?