Until his death in 1992, author Isaac Asimov would write more than 120 ingenious tales of detection and deduction, and in 66 of them he would present his armchair detectives, the Black Widowers, with the mind-teasing puzzles that they would strive to solve in often-quarrelsome conversation. The Black Widowers club is meeting again. In a private dining room at New York's luxurious Milano restaurant, the six brilliant men once more gather for fine fare served impeccably by their peerless waiter, Henry. At table, too, will of course be that requisite dinner guest to challenge their combined deductive wit: a man whose marriage hinges on finding a lost umbrella; a woman shadowed by an adversary who knows her darkest secrets; a debunker of psychics unable to explain his unnerving experience in a haunted house; or a symphony cellist accused of attacking his wife with a kitchen knife. In addition to six stories that have never before appeared in any collection, this volume includes the ten best-ever Black Widowers cases, among them the very first to be published, in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, as well as the first brand new Black Widowers story to appear in more than ten years.
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.