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Literature / Murder Mysteries

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"Murder Mysteries" is a short story by Neil Gaiman which was adapted first into an audio drama for the Sci Fi Channel website's Seeing Ear Theatre and then into a Dark Horse graphic novel illustrated by P. Craig Russell.

The story is divided into two main layers. The first is a framing narrative that focuses on a British man (the narrator) remembering his younger years when he was stuck in Los Angeles while trying to get back home. During his stopover he briefly hooks up with an old flame named Tink, and after leaving her apartment he meets an older man who tells him a story in exchange for some cigarettes. The older man tells the narrator of when he was the angel Raguel, the embodiment of God's vengeance, and of his investigation of the first murder in the history of existence after the body of another angel, Carasel, was discovered dead in the Silver City. Along the way he interacts with several other members of the divine hierarchy, including a pre-fallen Lucifer.

The conclusion of the story is, not too surprising for Neil, a bit of a Mind Screw. The ending can be interpreted different ways, and Gaiman himself provides an answer (see below), but it's hard to pin things down definitively.


This graphic novel provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Distillation: The radio drama.
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: Sort of, angels have specific roles, which sometimes seem to posses them.
  • Always Murder: It's right there in the title folks.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: P. Craig Russel drew one of these for Dark Horse, which is ironic because the story seems to be set in the DCU note 
  • Council of Angels: No official council, but angels seem to be running things without direct contact from God.
  • Determinator: Do not try to stop Raguel from doing his job. It will not end well.
  • Dramatic Irony: Hearing Lucifer say "Azazel would follow you anywhere" is a little chilling when you know what's coming.
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  • Everyone Is a Suspect: Not because everyone hated Carasel, but because there was no obvious motive in the first place, and Raguel is willing to interview everyone in the Silver City to get to the bottom of things if he has to.
  • Fair-Play Whodunnit: It is pretty obvious that Saraquael had something to do with the murder even before The Reveal.
  • Foreshadowing: Almost everything the narrator says during the first part of the story, depending on one's interpretation.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: Raguel, whenever he is angry or using his powers.
  • God: No Silver City populated by angels building the blueprint for the universe would be complete without one.
  • God Is Evil: Or at the very least a bit of a jerk.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Of course Raguel eventually figures out that Zephkiel is actually God - Raguel was created to be an investigator, after all. Unfortunately, Raguel makes the connection a little too late, but God had not intended him to figure out that he was the Chessmaster behind the actual murder.
  • Have You Seen My God?: The angels seem to be working without ever actually knowing where God is, but Raguel finds Him in the end.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: God
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: It's implied that Raguel removed the narrator's memory of some of the events of the night they met.
  • Love Makes You Evil: Saraquael murders Carasel because he cannot bear the pain of loving him and not being loved back. The implication of the frame story is that the narrator murdered Tink for the same reason.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Even though it looks like Carasel had died from falling, Raguel figures out pretty quickly that he was dead before the body hit the ground.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Zephkiel, aka God. By the end it's clear that the murder was a multi-stage Batman Gambit, with the eventual goal being to provoke Lucifer's fall from Heaven. In the end, only Raguel is able to put the pieces together, and he is thoroughly disgusted.
  • Mind Screw: Did the man murder Tink and everyone else in the apartment? What did Raguel give him? How much of this is God controlling? What happens to the narrator in the elevator? There's a lot to screw your mind with in here. Word of God: Yes, it was a murder, as it's all in the title
  • Omniscient Morality License: The only way for God to not come off as an absolute bastard for His plan.
  • Our Angels Are Different: They're naked and sexless, for starters.
  • The Plan: God appears to be running one of these.
  • Power Floats: Lucifer and Raguel both demonstrate this.
  • Power Glows: Raguel glows whenever his aspect comes upon him.
  • The Reveal: Raguel assembles all of the suspects for his own angelic parlor scene.
  • Start of Darkness: For Lucifer.
  • Stealth Pun: The story is a murder mystery but it is also a murder mystery.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: It's pretty hard to not empathize with Saraquael. Hell, even Lucifer sheds tears for him.
  • Unreliable Narrator: The narrator often mentions that he remembers certain things with crystal clarity and others not at all. There's a reason for this, but what it might be is down to interpretation.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Raguel manages to deliver one of these to God Himself.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Lucifer willingly puts himself through these sorts of tests.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Technically it's silver with a hint of sea-mist, but Lucifer qualifies.


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