Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Return of the Black Widowers

The Return of the Black Widowers
© 2003 Isaac Asimov, ed. Harlan Ellison
304 pages

As regular readers know, I greatly enjoy Isaac Asimov'short story collections, and in particular his Black Widower series. The Black Widower stories are "cozy" mysteries, in which a group of intellectuals from disparate fields meets once every month at a local restaurant. Each month, a different member plays host and is entitled to bring a guest. After dinner, one of the Widowers "grills" the guest, and a mystery of sorts will arise from the guests' answers. The story is driven by conversation, as the Widowers talk amongst themselves and attempt to find some conclusion. The books are very appealing to me, for a number of reasons, but particular to the Widower books is the ability of the reader to revisit the characters again and again.

This collection of Widower tales is special. Released nearly a decade after his death and introduced by Harlan Ellison, it consists of Asimov's favorite Widower stories as well as uncollected stories that don't appear in the previous books. The book is divided roughly in half, with an homage to Asimov appearing in the middle. The "homage" is a story written in the same style as Asimov's stories, with a group of friends meeting monthly and who find themselves presented with a mystery -- much to the delight of one of the characters,who has read Asimov and realizes the similiarity. Eighteen stories in all, the book ends with two pieces: one last Widowers story, but one not written by Asimov, and an 'afterword' by Asimov that has been taken out of one of his autobiographies in which Asimov writes about the series.

The book was very enjoyable: I read it in bits and pieces all through the school year, typically when my library reading was exhausted. It's definitely a favorite. I have now read all but one of the Widowers collections -- Casebooks of the Black Widowers.

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