Book Review: ‘Tales of the Black Widowers’

back cover blurb

‘Tales of the Black Widowers’ by Isaac Asimov – ‘Detection in the classic tradition from the world’s master storyteller’.

It has been an extremely long time since I have read any of the books by Isaac Asimov lurking in the dark recesses of my book shelves. It was while browsing that I came upon ‘Tales of the Black Widowers’. It must have been bought by someone else in the household years ago – as new – price 60p – because I had never read this book.

This is not science fiction which of course Asimov is internationally famous for – and quite rightly so. There’s an Introduction which goes into why he is writing a series of Mystery stories.

‘I started my writing career in science fiction, and I still write science fiction when I can, for it remains my first and chief literary love. However, I am interested in many things and among them has been the mystery’

If you tend to by-pass the Introductions in books, don’t this time, for it is a good read in itself.

The book contains twelve short stories, basically puzzles, which the gathering of men, ‘The Black Widowers’ have to solve. You might be able to work out the solution yourself in some of them – but not all. What you will do, as you read on, is follow through the reasoning of each of the possible answers being suggested by the Black Widowers. All the mysteries are solved, by the way, but not by one of the Black Widowers themselves – I’m not going to give that away.

Every month the 6 men in the Black Widowers, meet (usually at a restaurant). Each month a different guest is invited to attend who will provide the men for their mystery to solve. This takes place after dinner when the discussion can take place. Not all the members are present every month. Only one character , Henry, links together all the stories and is always in attendance. The gathering is based on a real life men only informal club known as the ‘Trap-Door Spiders’.

There is a character who is based on Asimov and you will soon work out which one that is. Each of the Black Widowers has a special skill or interest which they bring to the discussion.

The stories are engaging and as Asimov himself describes written in his ‘friendly and personal writing style’. There’s no violence or gory details so if that’s what you look for in a ‘mystery’ or ‘who dunnit’ then this is not for you.

It’s an easy going read but a gentle respite from so many of the modern examples in this genre.

front coer of the book with a coffee cup tipped on its side and out of it is emerging a black widower spider

Fiona Grahame

1 reply »

  1. I’ve never read this – never heard of it! I very much admire the writing of Isaac Asimov…

    We used to get a lot of books from charity shops but – Covid Cautious, we don’t go to charity shops now – we drop things off, but don’t stay to rummage.

    Sheena at ‘Stromness Books & Prints’ will be getting an order!…

    Sheena emailed yesterday to say she’s received our most recent order…

    We are very fortunate, here in Orkney, to have an independent bookshop – very fortunate indeed.

    The question is…..when do we go into Stromness?

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