“What happened? I left home, and I lost my way, and these days home’s a long way back. Sometimes you do things you regret, but there’s nothing you can do about them. Times change. Doors close behind you. You move on.”
Murder Mysteries is about two interconnected stories, one of a British young man trying (and failing) to reignite an old flame in Los Angeles, the other that of an older man recounting the tale of the first murder in Heaven (which is also the first crime in the Universe).
The older man is actually Raguel, the Angel of Vengeance. He shares to the younger man the noir-ish account of the death of Carasel, the angel who, ironically, is assigned to research about the concept of Death. At that time angels are still laboring over the Plan, including all the emotions and workings that may go with the Universe once it’s all finished. Other angels involved are Lucifer, the Captain of the Host, the only angel who walks in the Dark fringing the Silver City; Saraquael, Carasel’s partner in everything; Phanuel, one of the two senior angels who is not as great as he seems; and Zephkiel, the real thinker among the two senior angels and is actually more than what he seems. Raguel is mandated by Lucifer to investigate the case of the slain angel, and he must perform his function—to avenge, to give justice.
The story succeeds both as a hardboiled crime fiction and as an account providing the raison d'être that will eventually lead to Lucifer’s fall and his revolution against God (or The Presence, if you’re familiar with The Sandman universe). Too-religious people might find something offensive in it, a few might rethink some of their beliefs, but in the end it will all depend on the person.
At first, the reader might find no connection between Raguel’s story and that of the young Brit, but as the young man himself finds it, the reader will sure get it and even relate with it in some ways. One of the easiest methods to find the connection is to find the clue in the title.
The prose and style is powerful as always, not too florid but you can visualize/feel everything—from the androgynous, winged angels to the beauty of emotions each character projects. That’s exactly what makes Gaiman’s works incomparable: he writes them with intelligence and careful attention that they pop up with four-dimensional weight, even if they fall under the fantasy category. The endings provide food not only for thought but also for the heart. Even though his works are by no means light—except maybe the ones he penned for kids, though Coraline and The Graveyard Book contain disturbing elements as well—there would be always this constituent in his style that will surely tug at the heartstrings. Murder Mysteries is truly poignant, especially at the end, and it is something that I know I will always ponder on if I chance upon topics regarding the Creation.
Thumbs up again, Neil Gaiman!