Cover of The Union Club Mysteries
Book 277 Mystery Collection 1983
Starships Norby, the Mixed-up Robot
1 spaceship-and-sun
Asimov fan
1 spaceship-and-sun
Target reader

Four old gents enjoy relaxing in the library of their aristocratic club—until the brilliant Griswold awakens from his post-lunch nap to challenge his friends with a mystery brainteaser.

Griswold has, in his time, known a fascinating selection of spies, terrorists, police officers, military men, prisoners, and lovers. The thirty puzzlers he offers about these people are certain to perplex and delight you as you do your best to solve


WARNING: Solutions are provided at the end of each story. Don’t peak!

This is a collection of thirty short mystery stories written for Gallery, an adult magazine that usually takes more interest in matters other than mental stimulation.

They follow a common format, which (like the stories in Azazel) is an echo of P.D. Wodehouse’s method for telling his “golf” stories: Three friends are conversing in their local club, when their conversation sparks a memory in a fourth club member, Griswold, who then forces them to listen while he recounts a story of a fascinating puzzle he solved. The stories are structured so that the solution to the puzzle can easily appear somewhere in the magazine other than near the rest of the story, so that the reader has a chance to figure it out before reading the solution.

Writing a new puzzle story every month was a bit of a chore, however, and accounts both for the drop in the production of Black Widower stories in the early 1980’s as well as the fact that the stories here often have a forced edge to them. Moreover, given the fact that the format for the stories is even more constrained than for Black Widower stories, and the stories are, on the average, about half as long, they are generally not as good or as interesting.

The net result, then, is that I don’t like this collection nearly as much as most of the Black Widower collections, and I’m not a huge fan of the Black Widower stories to begin with. I would, therefore, have to rate this rather low and not recommend it except to the fan who cannot live without every word Asimov ever wrote. The better stories in the series are found in The Best Mysteries of Isaac Asimov, and one is just as well off reading them there.

(By the time The Best Mysteries of Isaac Asimov appeared, Gallery had dropped the series, and later Griswold stories appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. It meant that Asimov could put more effort into Black Widower stories, which are rather better.)

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