cover image Wilde West

Wilde West

Walter Satterthwait. St. Martin's Press, $19.95 (374pp) ISBN 978-0-312-05997-2

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. (Aug.)