Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Puzzles of the Black Widowers

I've been reading Puzzles of the Black Widowers on and off for a couple of months now. Rather than reading it straight through, I'd read a puzzle or two whenever I ran out of my weekly reading. This morning, I finished another Black Widowers book. Asimov follows the same formula: in every story, the Black Widowers -- a small club of six or seven gentlemen who meet once a month for dinner together -- go to their restaurant. The host brings a guest, and in the course of the guests' interview, a mystery arises. The Widowers then try to work out the solution to the mystery through rational thinking. After they have exhausted all possibilities and are stymied, the last Widower -- Henry the waiter -- points out the obvious and unforeseen solution.

As usual, there are twelve "collections" in this series. A few of the mysteries:
  • In "Unique is Where You Find It", the Widowers try to puzzle out what element of the periodic table is most unique to a particular college professor who has challenged their guest.
  • In "The Envelope", the Widowers are asked to speculate on the significance of an envelop tucked into the jacket of a spy.
  • "The Recipe" is a locked-room mystery that the Widowers attempt to solve.
They were all enjoyable, excellently written. I enjoy these Widower tales very much, as the characters are interesting and the stories always quite interesting. "The Recipe" had a fairly obvious solution, though. Usually I have to think about them to solve the mystery, but in "The Recipe", I simply read and wondered, "When are they going to bring up...".

All in all, though, superb as usual. Asimov is the master.

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