There are more mysteries in this world than you or I could ever fathom, and once in a while we can even unravel one.…

Here, spinning out in contagious bursts from Isaac Asimov’s lively imagination, are bright new pinwheels of detection—tales of hidden treasures lost in the most obvious of places; of an innocent man, who makes, by a calendar’s rough irony, his date with the noose; or “answers” to a mysterious gamble haunting a preacher; or perplexities that no one seems to be able to explain.

Here once again are those congenial armchair detectives, “The Black Widowers,” whose quizzing of each month’s dinner guest always elicits a good riddle; and , of course, that trusted and uncommonly wise waiter, Henry.

Another delightful collection of beguiling teasers for the legions for Asimov fans.

This is the second collection of “Black Widower” stories, and is (on the whole) a good one. In particular, I have special attachment to “Earthset and Evening Star” in this book, not only because I love the title, but because it’s the first “Black Widower” story I ever read—it appeared in F&SF to which I subscribed at the time.

On the other hand, “Nothing Like Murder” is among my least favorite of all the “Black Widower” stories, depending as it does on a pun on “murder” and “Mordor” (the dark land of evil in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings). Mind you, this isn’t because I don’t like Tolkien— to the contrary, I love Lord of the Rings passionately and rank it as my favorite single novel, even above Asimov’s work. My problem here is that Asimov was desperate to do a story which is in honor of LOTR and the story is simply not good. The basic situation seems strange to me (college students gathering in the park to run over an initiation ceremony into a Tolkien fan-club) and the pun is a bit of a stretch.

The remaining stories are generally quite good. “The Ultimate Crime” is another story written in honor of somebody else’s work, in this case Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories (of which I am also a fan), and this one I do like. And some of the stories— “Quicker than the Eye,” “The Iron Gem,” “The Three Numbers,” and “No Smoking” involve what I find to be believable and clever twists to solve the puzzle. (I also like “The One and Only East,” although I find the puzzle a bit forced. In particular, any puzzle which all-but requires the use of an outside reference source such as Henry admits to using in this case—well, that tends to be rather weak in my eyes.)

This is, then, definitely one of the stronger of the “Black Widower” anthologies.

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