Friday, February 8, 2013
Return of the Black Widowers
I’m a Black Widowers fan, so when I found out there was a final collection of these Asimov mysteries, along with some homages from other authors, I put The Return of the Black Widowers on my Amazon wish list. This was in Iqaluit, by the way.
Then I came back home to Toronto and thought of getting the book from the library. As a result, it’s no longer on my wish list.
The Return of the Black Widowers includes ten of the best Black Widowers stories from previous collections, so if you’re curious about them, that’s a good enough reason to pick up the book. Fans have probably read these collections already, though. So the only reason for me to have the book was the new material, and there’s where the book faltered.
There’s a reason the new material wasn’t published in its own, standalone collection — it’s not very good. There are many Widowers mysteries where I haven’t been able to guess the twist or the answer — “The Redhead”, “The Iron Gem”, “Early Sunday Morning”, etc. — and these are brilliant. There are also a few where I do, well ahead of the characters, like “None so Blind”, but usually this only happens once or twice in a volume.
In this collection, I guessed the solutions to “Northwestward”, “Yes, But Why?” (when you’ve eliminated all the other possibilities, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, is the answer), “The Haunted Cabin” and “The Last Story”. That’s half of the new stories in the collection. As for the remainder, one of the stories doesn’t feature the Black Widowers at all and another revolves around where a man left his umbrella. I like questions such as How did a poorly achieving student manage to ace the hardest exam? from “Ph as in Phony”, which is included in this collection. I just couldn’t get too interested in the whereabouts of an umbrella.
The book has an interesting foreword by Harlan Ellison, so maybe that’s another reason to read it. But buying it? For newcomers and die-hard enthusiasts only.