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The Return of the Black Widowers Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Carroll & Graf Pub (November 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786712481
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786712489
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,532,909 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Fans of Asimov's Black Widower brain-teasers, which typically turn on wordplay and subtle observation, will welcome this sixth (and first posthumous) collection in this diverting series. The book includes Shamus nominee Ardai's choices of the 10 best Black Widower stories, six previously uncollected tales and more. In each tale, the six members of the Black Widowers club gather to dine, socialize and take a crack at solving a puzzle posed by an invited guest. Invariably, the highly literate and intelligent group-an artist, a patent lawyer, a cryptographer, a math teacher, a chemist and a mystery writer (whose real-life counterparts from Asimov's circle of science-fiction colleagues Harlan Ellison identifies in his foreword)-falls short of success, and their Jeeves-like waiter, Henry, effortlessly points out the often obvious clues they overlooked. The mysteries the club tackles range from murder to theft to the seemingly inexplicable disappearance of an umbrella into a space warp. Most are locked-room or impossible crimes, and since the author bends over backwards to play fair, many readers will easily be able to anticipate the solutions. These old-fashioned puzzle stories may not have much substance, but they never fail to entertain.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Ah, there's nothing like a Harlan Ellison rant to add some spice to a short story collection, and he delivers a beaut in the form of an introduction to this collection of the late Asimov's Black Widower stories, one of the incredibly prolific author's relatively rare ventures into the mystery genre. Asimov wrote 66 Black Widower tales in all, from 1970 until his death in 1992, and this collection brings together 6 never published in book form in addition to the editor's selection of the 10 best. Each story is framed by a meeting of the Black Widower Club, at which the members, armchair detectives all, are treated to a gourmet dinner and then, for dessert, tested with a classic puzzle mystery. The mysteries tend to be gentle and ironic, solved by deduction instead of mayhem--and explained for the slow of mind by the inimitable waiter Henry. For fans of puzzle mysteries, this one's a gem, from a kinder, gentler era. (What does Ellison rant about? Mostly the book's editor, Ardai.) Elliott Swanson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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See all 14 customer reviews
These are incredibly well written stories, each one being very different and unique.
David A. Plouffe
The drill with Asimov's Black Widower mysteries (in music circles, one might call these "divertimenti") is well known to dedicated fans.
Paul Weiss
It's a book well worth having, not only for Asimov's fans, but for the mystery/puzzle stories' readers, also.
Ventura Angelo

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Vincent Poirier on July 25, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Of course I had to buy it! I love Asimov, I love his style and wit. He passed away in 1992, but that only slowed his output without stopping it.

There are 11 stories repeated from previous collections, six stories gathered for the first time, one Black Widower story by someone else, and an hommage to the Black Widowers also by someone else. There's an essay by Asimov and Harlan Ellison's forward.

Ellison's forward is the first thing wrong with the book. Asimov was famous for refusing to have anyone else write introductions to his books. In his story collections he also appended miniature essays to each story, often about how he came to think of a particular plot; obviously these essays are missing here. Further, the two stories by other writers just didn't belong in an Asimov collection, they're intruding. Finally, a few of the last stories were written when Asimov was dying and they are simply no good. I read and enjoyed them for sentimental reasons only; they would disappoint readers new to Asimov or the Black Widowers.

So if you are already a fan of the Good Doctor's fiction, indulge yourself and enjoy. Otherwise, do yourself a favour and pick up another of his 400+ books.

Vincent Poirier, Tokyo
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Ventura Angelo on December 9, 2003
Format: Hardcover
As a fan of Isaac Asimov, and of his Black Widower stories, I was delighted to read this book. Here you have a selection of ten of the best Black Widower stories ( a good selection, though I'd have included "Earthset and Evening Star". But there are many I consider the best, "Early Sunday Morning" and "The Wrong House" among them); there are also six uncollected BW stories,of which "Lost in a Time Warp" is one of the better examples of Asimov's sense of humour, very like "The Redhead", also included in the volume. At the end we have a commmemorative Black Widower
story written by Ardai, a very clever homage to the Good Doctor.
It's a book well worth having, not only for Asimov's fans, but for the mystery/puzzle stories' readers, also.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This review from BOOKLIST used to be on this page, but somehow disappeared. For those who missed it...
*Starred Review* Ah, there's nothing like a Harlan Ellison rant to add some spice to a short story collection, and he delivers a beaut in the form of an introduction to this collection of the late Asimov's Black Widower stories, one of the incredibly prolific author's relatively rare ventures into the mystery genre. Asimov wrote 66 Black Widower tales in all, from 1970 until his death in 1992, and this collection brings together 6 never published in book form in addition to the editor's selection of the 10 best. Each story is framed by a meeting of the Black Widower Club, at which the members, armchair detectives all, are treated to a gourmet dinner and then, for dessert, tested with a classic puzzle mystery. The mysteries tend to be gentle and ironic, solved by deduction instead of mayhem--and explained for the slow of mind by the inimitable waiter Henry. For fans of puzzle mysteries, this one's a gem, from a kinder, gentler era. (What does Ellison rant about? Mostly the book's editor, Ardai.)
Elliott Swanson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Paul Weiss on August 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The drill with Asimov's Black Widower mysteries (in music circles, one might call these "divertimenti") is well known to dedicated fans. Six members of the Black Widowers Club (chauvinists one and all, "no women allowed", if you puhhlease!) meet once a month at their club for a gourmet dinner. The members of the group - a lawyer, a cryptographer, a math teacher, a chemist, a mystery writer, and Henry, their inestimable waiter - never fail to ferret out an interesting mystery, theft, disappearance, swindle or some other form of interesting puzzle during the grilling of their dinner guest which invariably starts with the formula question "How do you justify your existence?" Despite the collective intelligence of the group (which Asimov humorously portrays them as being inordinately proud of), the solution of the puzzle always seems just beyond their grasp. Henry, in a quiet, self-effacing manner that doesn't quite succeed in covering his own serving of pride, comes to the rescue with the solution and the explanations for the other members and readers alike!

Readers of previous Black Widower shorts will be thrilled to return to the publication of this posthumous "best of" collection plus a handful of previously unpublished works by the good doctor! Cynicism, word play, jokes, puns, locked room mysteries, irony, sarcasm and other quiet diversions take centre stage. Don't look for violence, mayhem or thrills in this collection. They're just not there. Almost certainly, readers will twig to some of the solutions before Henry provides the answers and those brighter armchair sleuths will undoubtedly indulge in a little chuckling at the expense of the members. Other times, Henry's explanation will result in the proverbial slap in the forehead - "Now why didn't I think of that!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 1, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Everyone knows Isaac Asimov as one of the all-time great science fiction writers, but what a lot of people don't know is that he also wrote wonderful mystery stories. The best were about a club called "The Black Widowers," and this new book collects the ten best of the Black Widowers stories, plus six "lost" Black Widowers stories that never appeared in any Black Widowers collection before. Plus two extra tribute stories by other authors, an introduction by Harlan Ellison, a Black Widowers story Asimov wrote featuring a character based on Ellison, and an essay by Asimov explaining how he came to write these stories in the first place. It's a terrific book, a real treat for any fan of the Good Doctor or of brilliant mysteries.
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