Last month I read a Sherlock Holmes pastiche written by Linda Stratmann, and a discussion with my friends led me on a search for Holmes books with supernatural themes. That led to the graphic novel A Study in Emerald, written by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Rafael Albuquerque, and published by Dark Horse. The book is based on a short story by Neil Gaiman with the same title. The novel is an exploration of Holmsian themes in a Lovecraftian world.
The title A Study in Emerald is a variation of the title of the first Sherlock Holmes novel, A Study in Scarlet. The beginning of the graphic novel is also very similar to the novel. A wounded Afghan veteran reaches Baker Street in search of a roommate to share the accommodation cost. He teams up with a private detective who displays amazing deductive skills and subsequently gets invited to accompany him to a crime scene. A visiting royal member with numerous limbs is brutally carved up in his room with his emerald blood splashed all over. The detective and the veteran start their hunt for the killer in an alternative world where the rulers are Lovecraftian monsters from other worlds who have conquered humanity centuries before.
I loved the artwork, which highlights the Victorian atmosphere and subtly inserts the horror elements into it. It is more effective because the reader gets immersed in the story and fails to register the clever deception worked on them by the writer. The revelation in the end becomes all the more frustrating because the clues are embedded throughout the book, starting right from the first frame.
In the beginning of every chapter, a clever vintage advertisement is inserted that refers to literary characters like Victor Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll. It enhances the perception of the Victorian era as well as acts as a light subversive tactic for the reader. Also great to see was the artist's sketchbook at the end of the book, with his working notes, which gives an idea of the evolution of characters in his mind.
A Study in Emerald is an interesting graphic novel that convincingly blends two universes that define the characteristics of their respective genres after more than one century of their inception. It satisfies fans of both genres and can build a perspective for the neutral reader.