With the invention of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created one of the single most recognizable detectives, and style of detecting, the world has ever known. Numerous are the authors who have striven to emulate the great detective, and numerous also are the failures. Happily, I feel that Gyles Brandreth in Oscar Wilde and a Death of no Importance accomplishes the feat quite well. If you can imagine Holmes’ observations and deductions’ coupled with Wildes’ sly Irish wit, you begin to get an excellent picture of why this book is such a fun and engaging read.
Chronicled by his good friend Robert Sherard, Oscar Wilde brings his not inconsiderable intelligence and wit to the aid of a dead young actor whom no one else will believe was murdered. After befriending his own private detective consultant, the then highly popular Arthur Conan Doyle, Wilde and Sherard begin the hunt for justice for young Billy Wood. Chasing clues through Victorian London, with occasional stops for sumptuous cuisine and fine entertainment, Wilde seeks not only the killer, but also the proof needed to garner police involvement. Inspired by these tragic events, Wilde also begins work on a new story – The Picture of Dorian Gray
Brandreth has his characters hopping from exclusive gentlemen’s clubs to theatrical shows to a seaside resort, with many other stops in between. Through it all he paints a surprisingly vivid and realistic picture of Victorian London, and the inner workings of a real life group of friends. I found it fascinating when I discovered that Doyle, Wilde, and Sherard truly were great friends during the 1890’s, and this led a wonderful sense of realism to an already well written work. Luckily, the fun and excitement continues with Oscar Wilde and A Game Called Murder. For anyone who enjoys historical fiction, detective fiction, or Victorian London, this novel is a definite must read.