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.
*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 SwansonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved