Neil Gaiman’s A Study in Emerald is a short mystery that tells a story about a Holmesian investigation of a murder set into a world where Lovecraftian Old Gods has risen and taken over all of humanity. The title of the story is a reference to Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel, A Study in Scarlet, where he debuted his most famous creation, Sherlock Holmes. Aside from the main references to Sherlock Holmes and Cthulhu, the short story is also peppered with ads that reference the works of Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, and Robert Louis Stevenson.
The story begins with an unnamed narrator, a veteran of the war agains what he describes as against “the men and gods of Afghanistan, detailing his first meeting with an eccentric consulting detective after he returned to ‘Albion’ (presumably England). Just like in the original story, the unnamed narrator and the eccentric consulting detective become friends and, after being summoned by the police, consult together on the murder of a member of the German nobility.
“I have a feeling,’ he said, ‘I have a feeling that we were meant to be together. That we have fought the good fight, side by side, in the past or in the future, I do not know. I am a rational man, but I have learned the value of a good companion, and from the moment I clapped eyes on you, I knew I trusted you as well as I do myself. Yes, I want you with me.”
In the middle of their investigation, they are summoned by the reigning monarch of Albion, Queen Victoria, who has ruled for 700 years and they have been asked personally by the Queen, a member of the Old Gods who has risen to rule humanity, to solve the murder which they then traced to a group of Restorationists, people who are devoted to overthrowing the Old Gods.
“It is the immensity, I believe. The hugeness of things below. The darkness of dreams.”
I don’t want to go much into the story because there are certain details that readers need to discover on their own but I have to say that A Study in Emerald is a great read. It has the right amount of suspense, character development, and exposition for a short story. However, the question that needs to be asked is will a reader who does not know a thing about Sherlock Homes and the Cthulhu mythos still be able to appreciate the story? In my opinion, yes, although the impact will be highly diminished since the plot twists within the story will no longer have any effect. Yes, the story is effective as a mystery but I fear that the whole story will be lost to those who do not know anything about Sherlock Holmes or Lovecraft’s creations.
Rating: 3/5 Stars