The Oscar Wilde Murder Mysteries

Vatican Murders

Vatican Murders

Book 5:

Oscar Wilde and the Vatican Murders (title in UK & USA)

Book Description | Reading Group Guide |

Group Discussion Questions

  1. On the very first page of the novel, Oscar Wilde offers these words as a sort of personal motto: “The man who thinks of his past has no future. . . Personally, I give myself absolutely to the present.” (p. 1) Do you think Oscar lives up to his words? In what way is he a man of the present?

  2. In the same vein, which character do you think Oscar would be quickest to label a “man who thinks of his past”? How is this character tethered to his history?

  3. Discuss how Oscar’s and Arthur’s views of love and marriage differ. Which view do you feel is more aligned with a modern-day way of thinking?

  4. “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all. I live. And I rejoice that I am able to live as I do-freely, without fear and to the full.” (p. 46) Rex LaSalle proves to be an intriguing character. Oscar is immediately smitten with him, but Robert never quite trusts him. What was your first impression of the handsome Rex?

  5. Oscar and Rex’s relationship quickly blossoms. How does the book approach the issue of Oscar’s homosexuality? Are there ways in which his relationship with Rex is similar to young Prince Albert Victor’s relationship with Frank Watkins? In which ways do they differ?

  6. What is your opinion of the psychiatric work being done by Lord Yarborough and Professor Charcot? Do you find their practices immoral, or do you believe they are acting “for the good of science”? Were your feelings about their profession altered in any way after hearing Jane Avril recount her time in the hospital?

  7. How are women represented throughout the novel? Consider those women we meet (Lulu Lavallois, Lillie Langtry, Jane Avril, the Duchess of Albemarle, Nellie Atkins, Sister Agnes) as well as those who are not present (Constance Wilde, Louisa Conan Doyle).

  8. What role did celebrated mind-reader Professor Onofroff play in this story? Ultimately, whose side was he on? Could he be considered a double-agent? If so, how?

  9. How did the different perspectives told through the letters, diary entries, newspaper and telegram excerpts add to your understanding of the narrative? Similarly, which narrator did you find yourself most interested in?

  10. Do you think there are any characters in the novel who are truly innocent, who hold no secrets and tell no lies? If not, which do you consider to be the most innocent? Consider the following statement on page 52: “Where there are secrets, there are lies, and where there are lies, there is danger.” (p. 52)

  11. When Rex’s secret is revealed, were you surprised? Who had been your primary suspect prior to the revelation?

  12. Arthur reprimands Oscar for allowing Rex to escape, reminding him that “the man is a murderer . . . Not a prince or a vampire, but a murderer.” However, Oscar memorably replies, “But he was impossibly handsome, wasn’t he?” (360). Do you think Oscar does the right thing by letting Rex leave the reception? Or does he let his passion for Rex get in the way of sound judgment?


  1. When in need of a refresher course on vampires, Oscar turns to theatre manager and vampire enthusiast Bram Stoker. What else can you discover about the history of vampires? Compare and contrast the way vampires have been portrayed in literature, film and TV over time.

  2. Oscar’s witticisms regarding love and life are peppered throughout the novel. Choose a few quotes that stand out to you and share them with the group. How do these quotes apply to your own life? If more than one person chooses the same quote, discuss: What is it about that particular saying that made it so memorable and/or applicable?

  3. Throughout the novel, Oscar and his friends indulge in a number of delicious delicacies. Have each member of your group bring their favorite food or drink mentioned in the novel to your gathering, making for a tasty and Oscar-inspired discussion.