A Study in Emerald: Gaiman pays tribute to Sherlock and Lovecraft

A Study in Emerald audiobook review Neil GaimanA Study in Emerald by Neil Gaiman

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsA Study in Emerald is a Hugo and Locus Award winning short story by Neil Gaiman in which he pays tribute to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos.

At first Gaiman’s story appears to be a straight Sherlock Holmes pastiche as a man who appears to be Watson relates how his new friend, a consulting detective who appears to be Holmes, is being asked by Inspector Lestrade to help solve a murder mystery. In fact, it completely parallels Doyle’s first Sherlock Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet, which gets its name from Holmes’ comment that the murder scene is “a study in scarlet.”

You probably know where I’m going with this. There are a few clues that Gaiman’s world is not the England we know (e.g., it’s referred to by its ancient name of Albion), but we’re left in no doubt when this murder scene is “a study in emerald.” Still, though, Gaiman only hints at what this alternate England is like, and the fact that he never tells us much is part of the charm of this story. Then, when the narrator and detective solve the case and call the Inspector in to arrest their criminal, Gaiman throws us a delightful twist that will have Sherlock’s fans grinning.

I listened to Neil Gaiman narrate the audio version of A Study in Emerald which is 49 minutes long and is available at Audible for $3 for members and $4 for non-members. I always enjoy hearing Gaiman read his own stories. If you’d prefer to read this story in print, you can find a free pdf version that reads like a Victorian newspaper at Neil Gaiman’s website.

A Study in Emerald — (2003) Publisher: Alluding to both the Sherlock Holmes canon and the Old Ones of the Cthulhu Mythos, this Hugo Award-winning short story will delight fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, H. P. Lovecraft, and of course, Neil Gaiman. A Study in Emerald draws listeners in through carefully revealed details as a consulting detective and his narrator friend solve the mystery of a murdered German noble. But with its subtle allusions and surprise ending, this mystery hints that the real fun in solving this case lies in imagining all the details that Gaiman doesn’t reveal, and challenges listeners to be detectives themselves.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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  1. I really liked this story!

  2. I liked this story too, and I thought he did a great Doyle pastiche!


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