Gaiman cleverly misdirects the reader into believing that the narrator and his friend are the iconic Watson and Holmes in order to create a sense of mystery surrounding the duo and give the reader the comfort of familiarity only to provide a surprise twist in the end.
At the end of the story, the murderous accomplice of Vernet is revealed to be “John (or perhaps James) Watson” which leads the reader to question what happened to Watson and Holmes to lead the iconic duo to commit murder. It is then hinted that Vernet is Holmes because he not only outwits the narrator’s detective friend, but also suggested some “wild theories furthering the relationship between mass, energy, and the hypothetical speed of light”. The reader knows from “A Study in Scarlet” that Holmes knew certain useful aspects of the sciences which would lead many to conclude that Holmes is Vernet. This would lead the reader into many questions surrounding the duo which in this tale have been revealed to be anarchists. Perhaps the duo became tired of the old mundane bureaucratic police system when the government botched an important case and now seek to overthrow it. With Holmes’s apparent interest in mass energy and the speed of light, for which an equation was derived by Einstein that was vital in creating the atomic bomb, the reader also gets a sense that something has gone horribly wrong. Finally the narrator teases that an event happened in Russia, perhaps another royal death, only bringing further questions into Watson and the detective’s decent. None of this intrigue could have been accomplished to this wild scale had it not been for the initial misdirection of thinking the narrator and his friend were Watson and Holmes. Shock tends to lead to intrigue, and by providing the reader with familiarity, Gaiman created a lot of mystery.