This is the story of a powerful family, steeped in intrigue and betrayal. Here murder is the rule rather than the exception and strange half-beast, half-machine creatures called enigmals roam the land.
- Read on for an excerpt of The Wisdom of Dead Men and an interview with author Oisín
- McGann. You can enter the Rafflecopter at the bottom of the post for a chance to win the
first book in the series, Ancient Appetites.
While investigating a series of mysterious murders, Nate uncovers dark secrets that threaten to reveal the true nature of the Wildenstern family.
When the burned bodies of women begin appearing around Dublin, a connection is found to the Wildenstern family, the most powerful and dangerous private business organization in the world. To learn the truth, eighteen-year-old Nathaniel Wildenstern, who seeks to change his family’s ruthless ways, must dig into shadowy societies and dark family secrets that date back to the origin of the part-animal, part-machine enigmals. And what the young Wildenstern finds could shed light on the savage nature of the family itself.
Nate chewed his toast thoughtfully. His tea had already gone cold. He was about to call for more, when his manservant appeared behind him and softly cleared his throat. Clancy was a Limerick man who had been raised to serve the Wildensterns. For many years now, he had been Nate’s personal manservant and bodyguard, as well as his tutor in the family’s unorthodox survival skills. Dressed in a black suit with tail-coat and buckled shoes, he was a short, solid man with a straight back, square shoulders and graying hair. His inscrutable face was shadowed by bushy eyebrows and looked as though it had been shaped out of wood with a blunt hatchet. Nate had seen Clancy’s short-fingered hands sew the finest seams and break bones with equal ease.
Nate could sense Clancy’s eyes on him and suddenly resented the degree to which he relied on his manservant. The older man often seemed more like a mentor than a member of staff and he had saved Nate’s life on more than one occasion. Nate had the definite impression that Clancy disapproved of his more reckless behavior and expected better of him—a ridiculous attitude to have. That feeling was even stronger now that Nate had actually taken on some responsibility.
“Inspector Urskin of the Royal Irish Constabulary requests a moment of your time, sir,” Clancy informed him now, handing over the policeman’s card on a small silver platter.
Nate picked up the card and gave it a curious look. He nodded to Clancy, who retreated to the hallway, returning with a narrow-featured man dressed in a long gray coat, a mediocre brown suit and cheap but tasteful shoes. He held a slightly scuffed bowler hat in his hands. The policeman had a prematurely crumpled face sporting a bushy lip-whisker that was a shade lighter than his auburn hair. His eyes were intense and intelligent. He was accompanied by a young constable dressed in the RIC uniform of dark green with black buttons and insignia.
“Inspector Urskin and Constable Mahon,” Clancy announced. “Nathaniel Wildenstern.”
Nate avoided using all the titles to which he could lay claim—they made him feel old, and besides, his family name was more than enough to impress anyone.
“Thank you, Clancy,” he replied. “What can I do for you, Inspector?”
“Thank you for seeing me, sir,” Urskin addressed him, speaking with a guttural midlands accent. “If I may be so bold, I was hoping you or your brother could shed some light on a case that has come to my attention: the unfortunate death of an old woman in Tinahely.”
Nate restrained himself from asking if any death could be considered ‘fortunate.’ The policeman had a very solemn look about him.
“And what makes you think we could help?” he inquired.
“Well, it seems the woman might have had some connection with your family,” Urskin replied, handing over a small framed daguerreotype of a man and woman sitting in a formal, posed portrait. “That is your father, I believe.”
Nate gazed at the silvery image, intrigued by it. He had never seen this picture of his father before. The daguerreotype was old and faded, and crude by the standards of modern photography, but there was no mistaking the countenance of Edgar Wildenstern, the most fearsome Patriarch ever to rule the family.
“And this is the woman?” he asked, nodding to the other person in the picture.
“Yes, sir. Vicky … Victoria Miller was ’er name. She was well known in the area. Had the reputation of being a … well, a healer an’ all that.”
“I see.” Nate studied her face, noticing for the first time the likeness to his father’s. Was it possible she had been related in some way? “My father was not fond of having portraits done, and certainly not with common folk. Perhaps some of my older relatives might recognize her. I can ask at dinner. How did she die, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Ah, well … ” Urskin shifted uneasily on his feet. “That’s one of the more … puzzling aspects of the case. It seems she burned to death. We just can’t for the life of us figure out how.”
“I’m not sure what you mean.”
“I’ve seen enough deaths in my time, Mister Wildenstern. Bodies burn a certain way. You’d have to see the scene to understand why it’s so damned odd.”
“Well, then, Inspector,” Nate said to him, “why don’t you show me? We can go now if you like.”
It did not occur to Nathaniel that the policeman would refuse. Nor did he. Urskin knew that the Wildensterns owned most of Wicklow and had almost as much influence in Ireland as Her Majesty’s government. They were accustomed to getting their way.
“I’ll be waiting for you in the square in Tinahely,” Nate told him. “Try not to be too late.”
Oisin McGann Interview Questions
1. Where did you get the idea for The Wildenstern Saga?
The original ideas came together, forming around the concept of a vampire-like family whose power came from money rather than blood, and avoiding all the usual vampire tropes. It was going to be a much more science fiction/fantasy world, but I wanted to appeal to a more mainstream audience. Sometimes you can entertain yourself by going really weird, but end up alienating readers. I realized the core ideas of the story would fit well in a Victorian world, but I didn’t want to lose the freedom and imagination that sci-fi/fantasy offers and I wanted to add more humour and a touch of chaos. That was when I brought in the engimals, the living machines, as a new thread, and wove them into the science of the story and the mythology of the world. I also wanted to avoid the usual English setting, so I set it in Ireland instead, which added a whole load of extra historical spice, as those were fiery times.
2. The series is set in Victorian Ireland and incorporates many aspects of steampunk. How did you become interested in steampunk? Do you participate in steampunk culture often?
I’ve always been fascinated with the Victorian contrast of civil and delicate manners against the grit and grime of the Industrial Revolution and the massive difference between rich and poor, between science and religion, between virtuous Christian values of a developing society and the beginning of a grinding factory society. It’s a fascinating period in history, which is why it attracts so much attention. Plus, of course, when I was growing up, Jules Verne was the granddaddy of science fiction (I didn’t read HG Wells until later in my life). I think there’s a nostalgia for that kind of sci-fi, because for many of us, the technology is still understandable and is very visual. Electronics have made tech almost magical, but has meant it can be almost any shape, which has led to many everday things ending up shaped like a very practical round-edged box (cars, phones, trains, radios and TVs). Steampunk is visually stimulating because it’s chunky and often ugly or ridiculously ornate, the shapes either dictated by the function or the décor of someone’s house – and it’s gorgeously funky because of all that. I don’t participate in the cosplaying or model-making, but there’s some really lovely stuff out there.
3. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Loads, but it wouldn’t fit here. Mainly, write what you love to read, so it will always be fun. Life’s too short for meeting other people’s expectations and this is too weird, frustrating and inconsistent a job to do if it’s not fun. I have no time for the perception of the miserable, tortured artist. Sod that, write what you love – all the rest is a bonus.