A brutal murder has been committed, one that gains the attention of the upper echelons of Victorian society, so the consulting detective of Baker Street has been hired to solve the case. But this isn’t the Victorian England of the history books…
‘A Study In Emerald’ is written by Neil Gaiman, prolific and superb British author of short fiction, novels, graphic novels, theatre and films. This is one of my favourite stories by one of my favourite authors.
Originally appearing in the anthology ‘A Shadow Over Baker Street’ (2003) I first read this story in Gaiman’s short story collection ‘Fragile Things’ (2006).
‘A Study In Emerald’ is strongly influenced by Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘A Study In Scarlet’, with the first section closely mirroring the opening chapters of Conan Doyle’s original. It’s other strong influence is the Cthulhu mythos universe of H.P. Lovecraft. The story is a form of crossover fiction known as the Wold Newton family as developed by Philip Jose Farmer. Other influences are Kim Newman’s ‘Anno Dracula’ series and Alan Moore’s ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’
The combination of the main characters rational reasoning set in a reality ruled by the insanity-inducing Old Ones works well together. Gaiman works his usual magic, making you really engage with the characters in a ‘normal’ world and revealing the ‘weird’ or ‘other’ gradually. The clues to solving the mysteries are given slowly along with nods to other genre characters, so this is a story you’ll enjoy rereading too – I do.
After reading ‘A Study In Emerald’ I started to read H.P Lovecraft’s original writing, starting with ‘The Dreams In the Witch House and Other Weird Stories’. Many writers and musicians I admire, including Gaiman, recommended Lovecraft’s work that I felt I’d been missing out; I had. I quickly realised that I’ve read or watched many other stories inspired by Lovecraft, I just didn’t know how vast his influence was. Other authors still play in the incredible ‘sandbox’ of the Cthulhu mythos today, most recently Caitlin R. Kiernan in ‘Black Helicopters’ (see: Buried Alive by Books Out In May 2018 (Fiction))
I have only read one short story by Arthur Conan Doyle, ‘The Adventure of the Speckled Band’, back in the 1990’s as part of my English Literature GCSE’s, where I recall feeling happy to have guessed the culprits quickly. I really should read more rather than just devouring the various TV adaptations.
There’s also a board game also called ‘A Study In Emerald’ published by Treefrog Games (2003) based on this world – and how many short stories can say that?