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Story Review: A Study in Emerald by Neil Gaiman

A Study in Emerald by Neil Gaiman

A Study in Emerald is a short mystery that is reminiscent of a Sherlock Holmes novel, which is apt to assume since the title is a reference to A Study in Scarlet, the short story where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle introduced Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson. Based on my research, there are more allusions to Sherlock Holmes stories that will surely be a delight to the fans of one of the most famous detectives in literature. But what of the nonfan? How does one take this short story?

Having read The Hound of the Baskervilles as my initiation to Sherlock Holmes, I was at least able to detect the familiarities between Doyle’s and Gaiman’s stories. It may even seem that the unnamed characters in Emerald are parallels of Holmes and Watson, and further reading may suggest the presence of these two in other personas. Relevant Sherlock Holmes works may be necessary to be read to make any conclusions about this suggestion, but would the lack of background diminish one’s appreciation of this story?

I am not, as I said, a writer by profession, and I hesitate to describe that place, knowing that my words cannot do it justice. Still, I have begun this narrative, and I fear I must continue. A murder had been committed in that little bedsit. The body, what was left of it, was still there on the floor. I saw it, but at first, somehow, I did not see it. What I saw instead was what had sprayed and gushed from the throat and chest of the victim: in color it ranged from bile green to grass green. It had soaked into the threadbare carpet and spattered the wallpaper. I imagined it for one moment the work of some hellish artist who had decided to create a study in emerald.

The detective and his companion attempt to solve this grisly murder case of a German noble during the late 19th century in London. It’s not a whodunnit type since, given the short story form, there isn’t much room to practice the process of elimination. Most of the clues are presented in the second part while the suspects are introduced in the fourth. Case closed or not, that is what the reader needs to find out in the fifth and last part.

Without knowing anything about Scarlet or much of the Sherlock Holmes literature, I was able to enjoy it. The edition that I read is laid out like a two-column newspaper with various advertisements featuring Victor Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll, and Vlad Tepes (I don’t recognize the last one). I couldn’t make any sense of these advertisements or decide if they have any bearing to the story, but they are welcome sights and probably a celebration of the horror genre.


Published in: Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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