A ruthless killer shadows Oscar Wilde across the frontier in this “perfect blend of mystery, satire and travelogue” by the author of Miss Lizzie (Publishers Weekly).
An outrageously controversial literary icon in Great Britain, Irish poet, novelist, and playwright Oscar Wilde has taken his act to America in 1882. The renowned wit is thrilling audiences on his tour of the American West, while gleefully soaking in the rugged ambiance of dusty cow towns and rough saloons.
But all isn’t well on the lecture circuit. At every stop, soon after Wilde’s arrival, eviscerated corpses of redheaded prostitutes are turning up—a grim “coincidence” that hasn’t been lost on dour, alcoholic federal marshal Bob Grigsby. Apparently there’s a serial killer hiding among the writer’s traveling entourage: a motley group of managers, servants, and European aristocrats that has lately included the famed gunman John “Doc” Holliday.
Between his liaisons with married admirer Elizabeth McCourt Doe and fending off potential assaults by unamused cowboys, the flamboyant dandy decides it might be prudent to assist Grigsby in his investigation. After all, his reputation has already been savaged. Unmasking a killer might help to repair it—as long as the manhunt remains entertaining enough . . . and Wilde lives to quip another day.
In this perfect blend of mystery, satire and travelogue, Satterthwait ( At Ease with the Dead ) follows Oscar Wilde in his 1882 lecture tour through the American West. Wilde greatly amuses his audiences and Elizabeth McCourt Doe in particular, initiating a torrid (and to the reader, surprising) affair with her. Meanwhile U.S. marshal Bob Grigsby connects a series of murders and eviscerations of prostitutes to the cities where Wilde has delivered his disquisitions and accuses the writer of the crimes. Wilde steers the hard-drinking marshal to the other members of his tour, including an alcoholic reporter, a slick-talking business manager, a sophisticated countess, a frail valet, a retired Prussian officer and even gunslinger John ``Doc'' Holliday, who has been following the tour. Wilde and Elizabeth narowly escape being killed by cowboys to whom Wilde's wit is no laughing matter, but the identity of the serial killer is not revealed until the harrowing resolution. One more surprise waits in the wings, and its delivery is just as smooth as those that the playwright himself once put to paper.