Oscar Wilde and a Death of No Importance
Touchstone, Jan 2008, $24.00, 350 pp.
In 1889 literary phenomena Oscar Wilde rushes to 23 Crowley St. in London to keep an appointment and is let into the home by an anonymous woman. Upstairs he finds the beautiful male prostitute Billy Wood lying naked on a Persian carpet surrounded by candles, his throat cut from ear to ear. The next day he tells Arthur Conan Doyle about it; when they return to the scene of the crime, they find place void of blood except for a few drops on the wall and no body.
Doyle refers him to Scotland Yard Inspector Aidan Fraser who doesn’t seem to have much interest in the case as there is no body or evidence. A package arrives at Oscar’s home containing Billy’s severed head. He believes Fraser will be interested in the case now but to make sure justice is done, the author conducts his own investigation and finds a plethora of suspect ranging from Billy’s jealous step-father to a jealous lover. Oscar is determined to find out who the killer is.
Gyles Brandreth is a wonderful storyteller who creates a clever mystery while also providing a glimpse into literary late Victorian England. Oscar Wilde makes a great Sherlock Holmes and his sexual proclivities are implied for instance the club he belongs to is filled with sodomite members. This tale is told in the first person by Wilde’s good and logical friend another writer Robert Sherard adding to the sense of a literary journey into the late nineteen century.