The man was Oscar Wilde, poet and playwright, and literary sensation of his age. The dead boy was Billy Wood, a male prostitute of no importance.
Though not unimportant to Oscar Wilde. After finding the body of the young boy, Oscar Wilde is determined to track down his murderer, together with his friend Robert Sherard, a writer and great-grandson of William Wordsworth, who is more into love affairs than murder mysteries, although he’s as clueless in the one area as in the other. But they’re not alone, there’s Arthur Conan Doyle as well, who has just published his first story, A Study in Scarlet, featuring Sherlock Holmes, who’s Oscar Wilde’s great role model.
There’s even a librarian, John Gray, who plays a vital role in discovering the, or rather one of the, murderer(s):
Gray was twenty-three and worked at the Foreign Office. He was not a diplomatist; he was a clerk in the library, a youn man of humble origins who made his way in the world by dint of his own endeavours. [...] ‘He is a complex, multiform creature, ‘ said Oscar, ‘interested in art and music, poetry and languages, postage stamps and me!’.
Oscar Wilde and the Candlelight Murders is the first of a series of, so far, three novels featuring Wilde, Sherard and Conan Doyle as amateur detectives. They’re a great read if you like murder mysteries, Oscar Wilde and Victorian London. I Just finished the first, the second is already waiting at home and the third is on its way from the online-bookshop :-) . I hope the sequels are as good as the first one and that there’ll be more coming! Just note that the American editions are published under different titles (for whatever reason).
1) Oscar Wilde and the Candlelight Murders, London: Murray, 2007. 978-0-7195-6930-2. (American edition: Oscar Wilde and a Death of no Importance).
2) Oscar Wilde and the Ring of Death, London: Murray, 2009. 978-0-7195-6960-9. (American Edition: Oscar Wilde and a Game called Murder).
3) Oscar Wilde and the Dead Man’s Smile, London: Murray, 2009. 978-0-7195-6921-0.
But not only the characters in the novels are famous and/or have illustrious ancestors. The author’s related to a poet called Goerge R. Sims (1847-1922), who was also a journalist and, very approriately, the first journalist claiming to know the true identity of Jack the Ripper.