If I could choose one word to describe this book, it would be wicked. I love the Oscar Wilde murder mysteries. If it helps put this in perspective, I did my thesis on Oscar Wilde and the representation of sexuality in his plays, specifically “A Woman of No Importance,” “Lady Windermere’s Fan,” and “The Importance of Being Earnest.” This is one of those historical novels I can approach with an understanding of the characters and time period involved.
The book opens with Sherard visiting Oscar in Paris after Oscar has been released from prison. They talk about the vampire murders, and how Sherard thinks publishing the story will help Oscar get back on his feet. What follows is a bunch of telegrams, letters, and journal entries from the principal parties involved at the time of the scandal. So, what does the opening have to do with the rest of the novel? Everything. If you have read up on Oscar Wilde, or even if you decide to do some reading after this book, you will soon learn the story of Bosie Douglas, the blinding infatuation that led Oscar to prison. Sidenote: I had a fish named Bosie. Lasted nearly four years, driving back and forth to college for every break. He was the best fish anyone could have asked for until he died tragically my junior year of college. I don’t know if the fish’s death had anything to do with my fated path towards a Wilde thesis, but it might have. At any rate, the story of Bosie Douglas is well known, so there’s really no need to write a fictional account of it. However, the story of the fictional Rex LaSalle, that one you don’t know. View it as a precursor to the Bosie Douglas, if you will, that same sort of infatuation with an admittedly dangerous relationship.
While it may seem at first like the novel is hopping on the recent vampire trend, it is actually a lovely satire of said trend. Much of the subject matter deals with Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which of course, started the original vampire trend. The vampire, is a symbol of freed sexuality, so I fully expect the vampire trend to continue every so many years or so. For some reason, it seems to be the human tendency to sexually repress itself. On the vampire trend, I have seen several complaints about the format of the book, the whole newspaper clipping and various journal entries. The style is clearly chosen to emulate the original Dracula, and is decidedly brilliant.
I never know how much to talk about the plot when I review mysteries, because I never want to give too much away. I will say this: you will not be disappointed. To the astute reader, the murderer will give himself away fairly early, although the motivation will be hazy until the end. What truly is fascinating is watching these men perceived by history as brilliant being utterly blindsided by what they want to believe to be true.
This book is definitely a bubble bath read.