The Return of the Black Widowers
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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.
along on my original errand, listening for the sound of footsteps behind me or the shifting of shadows cast by the streetlights. "I wasn't early any longer and I arrived on the corner where my friend's apartment house was located without any need for further delay. The green light glimmered and I crossed the street, and then found matters were not as straightforward as I had expected. "The apartment house was not an only child but was a member of a large family of identical siblings. I had
remained behind me, moving as I did. The large man, who must have weighed 250 pounds, with little of it actually fat, remained quietly in front of me. Despite what happened in the bar, they still weren't afraid of me. It was, once again, the advantage of small size. "I said, 'This young woman and I have a date. We'll leave and you two continue to make yourself at home here.' "He said, 'That is no answer, sir.' "He nodded and I saw the smaller man move out of the corner of my eye. I lifted my
fist down so that the coffee cups jumped and clattered. "Because he cheated, damn his hide. That was not a legitimate final exam and as long as he has his Ph.D., mine is cheapened by that much—and yours, too," he said to Stacey. Stacey murmured, "Phony doctor." "What?" said Drake, a little wildly. "Nothing," said Stacey, "I was just thinking of a colleague who did a stint at a medical school where the students regarded the M.D. as the only legitimate doctor's degree in the universe. To them, a
word 'Pan' in the title?" "Actually," said Manfred, "I can't think of one." Avalon said, "The witch goddess, Hecate, is often thought of as triple—maid, matron, and crone—because she was a Moon goddess, too, and those were the phases—first quarter, full, and last quarter. As a witch goddess, she might be looked at as a triple devil. Memoirs of Hecate County was published too late to be the solution, but is there something earlier with Hecate in the title?" "Not that I know of," said Manfred.
a supposed haunted house?" There was a rather sticky silence as the Black Widowers stared furtively at each other. DaRienzi waited a moment, then said lightly, "I withdraw the question. Everyone has seen enough haunted-house movies in childhood to scar the soul of even the boldest." "But," said Halsted, "do you actually sleep in these houses?" "Of course not," said DaRienzi. "You simply spend the night there. After all, you have to stay awake if you're going to be aware of any manifestations.