Customer Reviews: Murder Mysteries (2nd edition)
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VINE VOICEon November 25, 2002
I must have read Neil Gaiman's short story Murder Mysteries four or five times since I originally encountered it; It's been featured, and rightfully so, in many short story collections. It's one of Gaiman's best, most thought-provoking works, and since Gaiman is one of the best storytellers around, that's really saying something. P. Craig Russell is one of the masters of the comic book art form, and he especially excels at adaptations of fantasy, having previously done Wagner's Ring Cycle, Michael Moorcock's Elric, and numerous Oscar Wilde stories. Gaiman and Russell collaborated on what many consider to be the best issue of Gaiman's DC/Vertigo Sandman book, and Russell has adapted a few other Gaiman short stories (One Life, Furnished In Early Moorcock, and Only The End Of The World Again). Murder Mysteries stands as a high-water mark, in my opinion.
The story-within-a-story, told by a homeless man to a visiting Englishman in L.A., tells of the first murder ever: An Angel killed in "The Shining City"; Our homeless storyteller is in reality the Angel Raguel, the vengeance of "The Name" (God). Raguel becomes, in effect, the first Detective, attempting to discover a motive that can lead to bringing the killer to justice.
Gaiman's story works on many levels, and I have to say that as much as I loved the prose short story, the ending has always left me vaguely puzzled; It's a very involved and thought-provoking piece, and I often find myself thinking about the ending. Russell's adaptation went a long way towards making that ambiguous ending more clear. It turns out I was on the right track, but Russell's visuals make the ending more visceral and powerful.
Murder Mysteries is presented in a gorgeous hardcover format, much the same as Dark Horse's previous Gaiman/ John Bolton book, Harlequin Valentine. This is a must read for all fans of Horror/Fantasy, as well as lovers of beautiful art. It deserves as wide an audience as possible. Give it a try, and spread the word.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon March 1, 2014
First, some housekeeping. This is the graphic novel version of Neil Gaiman's short story "Murder Mysteries". As of this writing, the Amazon site mixes up a number of different versions. One version is a "Play for Voices", published in 2011 and illustrated by George Walker; (cover is a skeleton on a black background). Another version was illustrated by P. Craig Russell, but it came out in 1998 and is not the new expanded version; (cover is white feathers on a blue background). All reviews up to now relate to this edition.

The edition you will want is to be released May 27, 2014, and is also illustrated and basically written, (from Gaiman's story and with Gaiman's complete collaboration), by P. Craig Russell; (cover is yellowish, with a Victorian/Maxfield Parrish vibe). Apart from being sharp and complete, this edition has an extended interview with Russell in which he explains his creative process and points out and illustrates many details regarding the design decisions he made while laying out and drawing the book. Even if you have only a passing interest in graphic novels this extended interview is rich, detailed, bullcrap free, and fascinating, and will leave you with a heightened appreciation of what illustrators do and how they do it.

As to the story, the reviews of the older editions pretty much say it all, and are so insightful and helpful they are worth a quick view. This is one of Gaiman's tightest and yet most complex stories, and it is rendered marvelously well here. If you want some Gaiman that's located in the middle ground between his straight mainstream prose works and his "Sandman" style works, this is a great place to start.

A very happy and satisfying find for Gaiman fans or newbies, and a wonderful intro to the world of graphic novels.

Please note that I received a free advance ecopy of the new 2014 edition of this book in exchange for a candid review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.
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on February 17, 2004
Combine Colderidge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" with Raymond Chandler and all the mystery and promise in the spaces between the words, "The world was without form and void," and you have Murder Mystery. An old man tells a story to a younger stranger in Los Angeles. The investigator of heaven is called to the scene of the very first murder, one in heaven long before Cain & Abel.
The story is divinely erotic and eloquently woven with a master's hand. The illustrations complement perfectly and entrance with their powerful delicacy. This is a must have for anyone interested in a theological or simply intriguing graphic novel.
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on January 27, 2004
This book blew me away. It had all the elements of a great story and the art was spectacular. It gets me thinking, and responding to the characters, even after I put the book down.
Great work!
By the way, Neil is not the illustrator.
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on October 13, 2002
Mever before have I encountered a work in which a transfer to a different medium has so enriched it (except perhaps the book Fight Club to the movie Fight Club). This has always been one of my favorite Neil Gaiman short stories, I have read and re-read it many times in the seven or eight years since I first read it, I have made innumerable other people read it and I have discussed it repeatedly. However, Russell's illustrations brought out and made evident an entirely new facet of the story that I have never realized, what is in fact the true Murder Mystery of the title! This story has been blown wide open for me, on what must have been the dozenth or so read, and I have since forced others to revisit it and make the same revelation. This translation, this new revelation, makes further testament to Gaiman's gift as a storyteller. Russell is not, in my mind, the ideal person to have done this project, I would have gone with somebody with a darker style. Still, this is a terriffic read, even if, and especially if, like me, you have known the story for a long time. I promise, it will change the way you see it.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon May 23, 2014
Murder Mysteries first appeared as a radio play and as a short story. This graphic adaptation does justice to Neil Gaiman's well-chosen words. This is a story about fallen angels and LA -- the city of angels -- is represented here as the city of fallen angels. The illustrations depict Heaven and LA as shiny architectural creations with pockets of danger.

An Englishman stranded in LA at Christmas meets a friend for a meaningless sexual encounter and then, taking a walk at night, gives an old man a cigarette. In exchange, the old man tells a story about the time the old man spent as an angel. He was Raguel, the vengeance of the Lord. His function was to determine responsibility for the death of an angel and to impose retribution. The dead angel was a designer in the Hall of Being, one of those responsible for designing the universe. He designed love and death. Was it the job, taken too seriously, that led to his demise?

Murder Mysteries begins as a murder mystery (with an angel as the victim), but it becomes a contemplation of the relationship between love and death. Death, like love, gives meaning to life. Without knowledge of death (or love), life is mere existence. But death, like love, is consuming. It is in our thoughts even when we have not achieved it.

To a lesser extent, Murder Mysteries is a contemplation of justice. Is vengeance just? Does the answer depend upon the entity served by vengeance?

This is Neil Gaiman and so none of the answers are easy or glib. The murder is easily resolved but the murder mystery is not. Perhaps (as we are often told) everything happens for a reason, but is it always a good and just reason?

The story returns to the Englishman at the end, and the last panels reprise the theme of love and death in a way that requires the reader to rethink earlier panels in the story. There's a fair amount of ambiguity in the story that might turn off some readers, but others will appreciate the opportunity that Gaiman provides for readers to draw their own conclusions about the story's meaning.

P. Craig Russell's art serves the story well. I particularly liked the subtle coloring. The last half of the book is an interview with Russell that deconstructs the story. I don't think it adds much (other than doubling the page count) -- I think an artist explaining art is like a magician explaining a magic trick (something that is best avoided) -- but it's there if you like that sort of thing.
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on January 19, 2003
Once again, Neil Gaiman has reinvented the thinking man's comic book. Murder Mysteries is the tale of the world's first crime of passion. Gaiman's intelligent prose and keen eye for conversation is perfectly woven with P. Craig Russell's fabulous visual art. This story is simple enough for high school students to read, but compelling (and short) enough to steal an hour of anybody's day.
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Two of the best things that can happen to a comic are to have Gaiman write it and Russell illustrate it. The combination emerges as a wonderful, haunting story. It imagines Lucifer's fall from heaven - a baffling rebellion, unless some specific needs to be rebelled against. And, with an all-powerful god, even Lucifer's rejection of heaven must itself have been divinely ordained. This story posits wholly sufficient reason, a real theological thorn that irritates many mere mortals, and a Macchiavellian orchestration of Lucifer's departure.

This isn't bible-thumping, though. It's story-telling, the kind where elegant images set off a thoughtful, thought-provoking myth. Along the way, it reminds us that the age of myths isn't over. Our own age needs to understand itself through fiction as much as any other ever did, and Gaiman and Russell contribute to that understanding.

-- wiredweird
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on July 10, 2002
This is a graphic adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Murder Mysteries by P. Craig Russell. First of all, you can't go wrong with the story which is an investigation of the first murder(not Earth, the universe). Terrific art by Russell who also collaborated with Gaiman in a Sandman/Morpheus story. I recommend this to everyone, especially to the Sandman fans out there.
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on June 18, 2014
This review was originally posted on Avid Reviews:[...]

I have not read many graphic novels in the past, and I had convinced myself that they were simply not “my thing.” Earlier this year I read a graphic novel that was based on part of Joe Abercrombie’s First Law series, and ever since I have made a promise to give more graphic novels a chance. Neil Gaiman’s Murder Mysteries is beautifully written and stunningly illustrated by P. Craig Russell. After reading it I was convinced that my pledge to experience graphic novels had finally led me to something meaningful as well as picturesque.
The plot of Murder Mysteries revolves around some of Neil Gaiman’s favorite themes: gods, the origins of morality, and the shades of gray between good and evil. The story starts with a lonely man in Los Angeles who shares a cigarette one night with a stranger. The stranger tells the man the story of creation from the perspective of an angel of justice. God has given each angel a task, which falls under either the category of maintaining heaven or being the architects of earth. But when the very first crime in existence is committed, the angels of heaven are shocked. Someone has murdered an angel in paradise, and things will never be the same.
Fans of Neil Gaiman’s books will enjoy this graphic novel, as it is one of the most beautiful stories he has ever written. The story is simple, but extremely moving, and the striking artwork makes up for the flowing prose of a traditional novel. This story really struck a chord in me, and made me stand up and take notice more than any other Gaiman story I have ever read.
I do have one note of caution for Gaiman’s fans: though the themes are extremely similar to those in his other works, the tone in this story is much more serious. If you are looking for a fun story with a lighthearted feel similar to American Gods or Stardust, this is probably not the graphic novel for you. This is a serious story full of light and dark, and it leaves the reader feeling slightly melancholy and contemplative. I enjoyed it much more than The Sandman, Gaiman’s other graphic novels, and found them to be both easier to follow and more profound.
Overall, I would rate Murder Mysteries an 8/10, as it touched me in a way that few stories can.
I received a copy of this graphic novel from Netgalley and the publisher in return for an honest review.
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