OSCAR WILDE AND THE RING OF DEATH Gyles Brandreth John Murray, £14.99
We've had Aristotle and Samuel Johnson as series detectives. Here comes Oscar Wilde for the second of Brandreth's jolly fin de sicle outings. As much imaginative biography as murder mystery, the book paints a lively portrait of Wilde at the height of his fame. The murders and solution are standard stuff – it's Wilde and his world that hold the attention. Terrifically well researched, it all whizzes along and the reader can have fun identifying the real Wilde's witticisms from Brandreth's.
Also try: Walter Satterthwait, Wilde West
Diane Wei Liang
The detection element is almost incidental to this tragic story of two people linked by the 'incident' of Tiananmen Square in 1989: a man found guilty of involvement in the protest and a woman racked with guilt because she stayed away. The latter is Beijing private investigator Mei Wiang, searching for a missing starlet. The China revealed here – communism mixed with capitalism and attendant greed and corruption – is a milieu ripe for a resurgence in detective fiction, banned under Mao. The Chinese, after all, invented the genre.
Also try: Qiu Xiaolong, Death of a Red Heroine
THE BOOK OF MURDER
This one's in the 'intellectual mystery' category, set in Buenos Aires. The detective/narrator is a novelist; the chief suspect, Kloster, is a rival novelist. A secretary who worked for both believes Kloster is behind the deaths of her loved ones and enlists the other novelist's help. Whose version of events is true: the secretary's or Kloster's? Neither? The narrator's a jealous novelist, so how reliable is he? It's beautifully written and absorbing but the ending is either unconvincing or baffling.
Also try: Jorge Luis Borges, Death And The Compass