Source: Harper Collins (via BoingBoing)
Reader: Neil Gaiman
Length: 46 minutes
The story: “A Study in Emerald” was originally published for the Holmes-meets-Lovecraft anthology Shadows Over Baker Street and was republished in Gaiman’s short-work collection Fragile Things. The details of the story closely parallel A Study in Scarlet: the a veteran of the Afghanistan war takes up lodging with an odd companion. The police ask the “consulting detective’s” advice on a baffling murder in which the word “RACHE” has been printed in blood upon the wall. Yet, Gaiman’s narrative introduces one major difference: the Great Old Ones, the terrible madness-inducing demon-gods of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, are real and rule the world.
As in Michael Chabon’s Holmes-versus-Nazis novella The Final Solution, Gaiman writes his Sherlock Holmes story without ever overtly mentioning the detective’s name. It’s a simple trick, but here Gaiman uses the device to interesting effect. The other Gaiman hallmarks are here: the killers who work as a pair, the disquieting combination of the banal and the supernatural, and the passing references to fictional, historical and legendary characters. All these devices make the story uniquely Gaiman, but without ripping the characters out of Doyle's hands. In the end, it’s gratifying to watch Holmes and Watson fighting to save the world, even in such a bizarre alternate reality.
The reader: Gaiman reads his own work here and does it with the skill of an actor. His voices are distinct, but not distracting, for the most part. I’m always disturbed when an Englishman adopts an American accent, as Gaiman does for one voice. It’s like when you hear your own voice on a voicemail: Do we really sound that harsh and stupid? My own international issues aside, the recording is a beauty and makes me want to go out and buy the whole collection on iTunes, which is exactly what Harper-Collins probably intended with this freebie.