Oscar Wilde and the Candlelight Murders is the first novel in the Oscar Wilde Murder Mysteries, a series of books about Oscar Wilde as a Sherlock-Holmesian detective by Gyles Brandreth.
Robert Sherard tells the story of how Oscar Wilde happens on the naked body of a young boy and decides that he has to solve that murder. Especially after the body and all trace of the crime disappear. With the help of Sherard and Arthur Conan Doyle takes up the case that leads him through public clubs to secret societies.
Oscar Wilde and the Candlelight Murders was a quick and enjoyable read but I did have some issues with it as well.
I guess apart from his writing and his quotes and his dandyism, Wilde is mostly known for being gay. And I think that Brandreth wanted to make Wilde more than just “a gay martyr/icon” but in the process practically erases his homosexuality altogether. I read the entire book wondering whether Brandreth wanted to make him a straight guy who just happened to be in gay clubs because of good food and interesting conversations or whether he just wanted to show the extreme care homosexuals had to show in Victorian times and that’s why Wilde was so far into the closet he couldn’t even talk to his friends about it. That Brandreth spends a lot of time on Wilde’s relationship with his wife didn’t help to decide, though I did like that he did.
Some parts of the mystery were a little lacking. Particularly the fact that the Sherard (and with him the reader) is kept in suspense several times because Wilde makes an important discovery but feels too tired to talk about it. And when Wilde doesn’t want to talk, he doesn’t want to talk. And while I can imagine this to be a very accurate description of Wilde’s character, I thought it was a very lazy plot device to use it in that way.
But other than that, I had fun reading this. I liked the way Brandreth incorporated Wilde’s bonmots (of course not all of them) into the story and how he generally characterized him. It gives a very vivid picture and one I can certainly believe to be true. Sherard himself remained surprisingly colorless for a narrator but I guess next to Wilde, most characters will pale.
Summarizing: Entertaining and interesting.