REVIEW: MURDER MYSTERIES / AUTHOR: NEIL GAIMAN / ARTIST: P. CRAIG RUSSELL / PUBLISHER: DARK HORSE / RELEASE DATE: MAY 20TH
Neil Gaiman’s Murder Mysteries is one of the author’s personal favourites. Easy to see why: it's quintessential Gaiman, featuring dream-like sequences, harsh realities and a sense of disquieting whimsy. The tale originally started out as a short story but has since been adapted into many different forms of media, including this graphic novel, illustrated by P. Craig Russell.
The plot is the sort of urban fantasy that Gaiman is most famous for, that delicious blend of everyday happenstance and utterly wild strangeness. The tale begins with a chap coming from England to Los Angeles and after a disastrous personal encounter, he finds himself wandering the streets of the city. He meets up with a strange man who claims to be an angel, who then proceeds to unburden himself with an account of the first ever murder, one that happened before the Earth was finished.
At its heart, Murder Mysteries is a very simple tale; someone is killed and someone else flutters around the crime scene looking for the culprit. However it is filled with layers upon layers; the entire investigation takes place on the construction site of creation itself and of course, an all-knowing God happens to be lurking in the background. Each element of the story asks its own question and this is not so much a whodunnit as who-didn’t. Taken at face value, it’s a fun little crime story, but once you start analysing all the little pieces it becomes a different sort of affair, which is exactly what you should get from good crime fiction.
Russell’s art is a very good fit for the prose, being beautiful in an unnatural sort of way and at the same time feeling ever so slightly unfinished. Given that the bulk of the story is set in the heart of creation itself this works extremely well in context. Though prose adaptations often suffer from an all-too literal interpretation of the text, Russell gets it spot-on here. At no point is heaven too bland or too glorious and it contrasts brilliantly with the diverse yet dirty scenes back on Earth. The artwork brings impact to the prose during key scenes and works beautifully well.
Murder Mysteries is an odd little graphic novel that should suit fans of Gaiman and those who like weird crime tales, and though it is a quick read, you will come back to it again and again, trying to uncover all the layers of mystery as you do.