In Neil Gaiman’s “The Case of the Four and Twenty Blackbirds,” Horner is a private investigator looking into the murder of a renowned blackmailer named Humpty Dumpty. He’s paid to do this by Humpty’s beautiful sister. The Kings Men tried to put Humpty back together but he died. The police chief warns Horner that he’s punching above his weight class and that he should abandon the case. Humpty’s fall was marked as an accident by most. Horner continues to look for clues on Humpty’s murder and is continuously told to drop the case. Eventually he figures out that Humpty’s sister is actually the killer, because she didn’t want anyone to find out she had her nose fixed by a now deceased surgeon whom Humpty had recommended.
It’s very interesting to see how Gaiman adapted a nursery rhyme into a gritty down to earth murder mystery. We kind of rooted for this investigator, while the author also kept us glued to the story because the reader wants to see how closely the story lines up with the nursery rhyme. The brutal ending also focuses on how gritty the world is and highlights how nursery rhymes and fairy tales used to have endings that were darker than the ones children are told today.
I would definitely want to steal Gaiman’s ability to take such a surreal world and ground it thoroughly in a reality of his own making. This is a silly story told to children, urging them to not climb too high. Gaiman twists it in to a tale filled with murder and intrigue. A bumbling simpleton in the original story becomes a cunning blackmailer with animal allies.