Blackbird Has Spoken. Neil Gaiman’s Amusing Noir

The Case of the Four and Twenty Blackbirds  by Neil Gaiman (1984)

Tuesday’s Tale of Mystery, Reading Fiction Blog

November 7, 2017

Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie. You remember that nursery rhyme known as Sing a Song of Sixpence by Mother Goose? The king is in the counting house, the queen is in the parlor and that sorry maid is hanging out the clothes and lost her nose.

Come meet Jack Horner, a private dick (Raymond Chandler influence going on here) and a murder victim named Dumpty. Dumpty’s sister, Jill (Jack and Jill), wants to find the murderer and hires Horner.

I sat in my office, nursing a glass of hooch and idly cleaning my automatic. Outside the rain fell steadily, like it seems to do most of the time in our fair city, whatever the tourist board says. Hell, I didn’t care. I’m not on the tourist board. I’m a private dick, and one of the best, although you wouldn’t have known it; the office was crumbling, the rent was unpaid and the hooch was my last. 

This is not your usual short story.  Neil Gaiman’s use of nursery rhyme characters, tongue-in-cheek clichés, and the bizarre is beyond amusing. I liked his little twists and intrigue.  Gaiman wrote this clever short when he was just 24 years old. This mix of noir, murder, and a delicious dark ending is a thoroughly entertaining 25-minute read.



Neil Gaiman’s books and stories have been honored with 4 Hugos, 2 Nebulas, 1 World Fantasy Award, 4 Bram Stoker Awards, 6 Locus Awards, 2 British SF Awards, 1 British Fantasy Award, 3 Geffens, 1 International Horror Guild Award and 2 Mythopoeic Awards.




Read the short story at

Listen to the audio (26 minutes) on 


And here’s a real treat. Listen to the musical version (13 minutes) of The Case of the Four and Twenty Blackbirds, producted by BMI Musical Theater Workshop. Music by Cheeyoung Kim/ Words by Tony Oblen.

Pretty cool! Click here:



Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free reading. This blog is a compendium of over 200 short stories by more than 100 famous storytellers of mystery, supernatural, ghost stories,  suspense, crime, sci-fi, and ‘quiet horror.’ Follow or sign up to join me in reading two short stories every month. Comments are welcome.

 Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

 Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine   Chuck Windig’s Terrible Minds     Horror Novel Reviews     

Monster Librarian 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed


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Filed under crime stories, crime thrillers, fiction, ghost story blogs, horror blogs, murder mystery, mysteries, pulp fiction, Reading Fiction, READING FICTION BLOG Paula Cappa, short stories, short story blogs, tales of terror

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