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Literature: A Study in Emerald
A Study in Emerald is a Hugo Award-winning short story by Neil Gaiman, essentially an Intercontinuity Crossover between Sherlock Holmes and the works of HP Lovecraft. Written in the style of a classic Holmes pastiche, this story, roughly following the plot of the first Holmes novel A Study in Scarlet, finds a brilliant consulting detective and his new flatmate investigating the gruesome murder of a member of the royal family.

Can be read here for free, in nifty newsprint format. Which we highly recommend you do before proceeding to the trope list, which contains spoilers.

And also just because it's awesome.

This work provides examples of:

  • Alien Blood: Hence why it's a study in emerald.
  • The All-Concealing I: The protagonists aren't referred to by name, so we're led to believe they're Holmes and Watson... until the real Holmes and Watson show up.
  • Alternate History: It's revealed in the first few paragraphs that Eldritch Abominations exist and are accepted fact in this version of Victorian Britain, and that's just the beginning.
  • Anti-Hero: Rache, the real Sherlock Holmes and killer of royalty, is a Pragmatic Hero.
  • Badass Bookworm: Rache, the real Sherlock Holmes.
  • Bad Dreams: The narrator warns his potential apartmentmate that he screams sometimes at night.
  • Bad Moon Rising: The narrator mentions in passing that the moon is now red, and has been for centuries. People are used to it now.
  • Big Good: The Old Ones, in the eyes of most of humanity.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Our protagonists go to see a theatre troupe perform three one-act plays: a wacky Mistaken Identity comedy, a tragic melodrama about a sweet starving waif who sells violets, and a historical epic about the day the Old Ones awoke and conquered humanity. And the audience is equally charmed by all three.
  • Brown Note
  • Continuity Nod
    • The name Vernet is a nod to a minor line from the Holmes story "The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter."
    • The Sigerson alias was also used as such by Holmes in the period between the events of "The Final Problem" and "The Adventure of the Empty House".
    • "John (or perhaps James) Watson" is a reference to Arthur Conan Doyle's notorious inability to keep Watson's first name straight. Call it an incontinuity nod.
    • Likewise, there's a similar nod to the text's disagreement about where on his body Watson was injured in Afghanistan. Study in Scarlet placed it on his leg, later stories said his shoulder. In A Study in Emerald Moran, i.e., the "fake" Watson, was wounded in his shoulder, while the real Watson was wounded in his leg.
      • Moran refers to Watson as "The Limping Doctor" until Holmes and Watson's names are revealed at the end.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: But of course.
  • Crack Fic: And a glorious one it is.
  • Deadly Doctor:
    Indeed. I hate to say this, but it is my experience that when a doctor goes to the bad, he is a fouler and darker creature than the worst cut-throat.
    • Subverted, in that the average reader is quite likely to agree with the killer, Dr. Watson, that his actions were right and necessary.
    • This is also either a Continuity Nod or Mythology Gag, in that the line is originally used to describe Dr. Roylott in The Adventure of the Speckled Band: "When a doctor does go wrong he is the first of criminals."
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Tentacled horrors running the place? The natural order of things. To do it otherwise would just be silly.
    • The narrator refers to the "savages" of Afghanistan (both human and Eldritch Abomination) who are unwilling to see the reasonableness of being ruled by their betters in London or even Moscow.
  • Did You Just Have Tea With Cthulhu: Early in the story, the protagonists are briefed by the Queen who while oddly voiced, speaks English and talks lucidly, and is nice enough to heal the narrator's injury. She seems decent enough if you ignore the strong implication (probably certainty) that she and her relatives like to Mind Rape people every once in a while and will probably wipe out humanity pretty soon.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Two men manage to knife to death a Bohemian prince, a sort of Old One half-breed.
  • Did You Just Romance Cthulhu?: Victoria is not the same same species as Prince Albert in this universe.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Great Ones, naturally, including Queen Victoria, the Black One of Egypt, the Ancient Goat and the Czar Unanswerable.
  • Expy: The Great One Parent to a Thousand, of Lovecraft's Mother of a Thousand Young
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Queen Victoria. Not that one. She's called Victoria because she conquered Europe centuries ago.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Royalty is the product of intercourse between humans and Old Ones, producing something with green blood and a large number of limbs.
  • Hot Skitty-on-Wailord Action: Victoria's consort is quite human, while she towers over them.
  • Hero Antagonist
  • Lovecraft Lite
  • Medical Monarch: Queen Victoria is able to ease the narrator's constant pain from a wound he received from an Eldritch Abomination in Afghanistan. Of course, she's probably related to it.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: All plays on the titles of Lovecraft characters. The Czar Unanswerable (The Unnameable), the Black One of Egypt (Nyarlathotep), Parent to a Thousand (Shub'Niggurath).
  • Noble Top Enforcer: Lestrade, the detective, the narrator and Prince Albert all seem like decent people.
  • Obliviously Evil: The protagonists and Lestrade.
  • Perspective Flip: Kind of. Moriarty and Moran are the "good guys" and Holmes and Watson are the antagonists. However, while the reader probably ends up seeing the latter as still being heroic, Moriarty and Moran actually are well-intentioned in this setting despite their allegiance to Eldritch Abominations.
  • Royally Screwed Up: Played for kind of dark humor in that the Queen's relatives seem to be the usual debauched and reckless sort that the human Victoria had (and probably many/most monarchs have), but it's taken Up to Eleven, given what they are.
  • Serial Numbers Filed Off (In-Universe): The plays they see concerning the mistaken identity between identical twins and the girl who sells violets are, respectively, Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors and The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen with a few details changed.
    • The latter of which makes perfect sense, seeing as the "hero" of the third play gained his status by beating a Christian priest to death with a crucifix. The Great Old Ones are not in the slightest friendly to the old religions.
  • Sherlock Scan: Mostly played straight with the Great Detective, but subverted/parodied in the scene where he recognizes that the murder victim is a member of the German royal family... by the number of his limbs and the green shade of his blood.
  • Shout-Out: With the exception of the first one, which introduces a theater troupe that will feature in the plot, each of the advertisements between chapters.
  • Spell My Name with a Blank
  • Staring Down Cthulhu: The consulting detective, when he meets Victoria, doesn't seem at all intimidated.
  • That's What I Would Do: The detective tells the narrator that he figured out how the murderers got away based on the fact that he would have done the same thing. An early moment of foreshadowing that, in an Alternate Universe, he is the villain.
  • Title Drop: In the description of the crime scene.
  • Tomato Surprise
  • Twice Told Tale: The ending can be hard to follow unless you're relatively familiar with the Sherlock Holmes canon. (The story doesn't require a similarly close knowledge of the Cthulhu mythos, but it doesn't hurt.)
  • The Watson: Well, it's a Sherlock Holmes pastiche, after all.
  • Weird Moon: It's bright red thanks to the Old Ones.
  • Worthy Opponent: The Great Detective and his equally clever antagonist take this attitude toward each other.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: The narrator refers to the detective as "my friend." This sort of thing is common in professionally published pastiches, and the legal status of the Holmes characters is turbulent. It's actually because the narrator and his friend are NOT Watson and Holmes.


The Years of Rice and SaltHugo AwardIllium
The Strangely Beautiful SeriesLiterature of the 2000sThe Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror
The Stress of Her RegardFantasy LiteratureThe Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror

alternative title(s): A Study In Emerald
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