Oscar Wilde and the Ring of Death is the second novel in the Oscar Wilde Murder Mysteries, a series of books about Oscar Wilde as a Sherlock-Holmesian detective by Gyles Brandreth.
[Here’s my review of the first book.]
Finished on: 6.8.2015
Robert Sherard tells the story of how Oscar Wilde invites a bunch of people to a dinner (among them Arthur Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker, E.W. Hornung, Alfred Douglas aka Bosie, his brother Francis Douglas, and Charles Brookfield), where they play a game of “murder”: every person should name one person they would murder if they got the chance. After the dinner, the people on the list start dying one by one in the exact same sequence. That gives Oscar Wilde a tight time frame to find the murderer among his guests – before his own name comes up.
Oscar Wilde and the Ring of Death was an entertaining read and a definite improvement on the first novel. I enjoyed it.
The things that bothered me most about the first book was the fact that Wilde’s homosexuality was pretty much ignored and that the play with which information is given to the reader and which information is delayed for revelatory effect didn’t really work for me. Both of these points are infinitely better in this novel. Wilde is acknowledged as a gay man and his affair with Bosie is commented on, even if it is still not something central to his personality (which is completely okay, it doesn’t need to be). And the information management is also better handled, even if it is sometimes still not completely natural.
Though that might have more to do with the fact that the plot just isn’t that strong. The book lives of its characters and the historical information and connections that are added to the plot, not really the crime story. Therefore it was also particularly nice to get an epilogue where we heard what happened to all these people later on in their lives.
Brandreth also has a nice way of including Wilde’s aphorisms into his text with a certain studied nonchalance that echoes Wilde’s own performance of ease. At times that performance falls flat and the work that is behind it shines through, which makes Wilde a more human, more believable character and less of a perfect idol to be admired. I liked that.
Summarizing: entertaining and nice.