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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 in 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:

  • 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.
  • 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 can 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 within 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 Glows: Raguel glows whenever his aspect comes upon him.
  • The Reveal: Raguel assembles all of the suspects for his own angelic parlor scene.
  • 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.
    Lucifer: That was not right... that was not just.
  • 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.