Saturday, January 28, 2012
Murder & Magic: Review
Step into another world...the world of Randall Garrett's Murder and Magic...a world where Richard the Lion-Hearted did not die at the Siege of Chaluz and the House of Plantagenet rules England and a mighty empire even in the 1960s. This is also a world where Magic is science and all the usual scientific methods are underwritten by magical laws and procedures. There is no blood-typing by microscope...it is all discerned by the Law of Sympathy. There are no doctors with pills and serums and potions, but religious Healers who cure more often by the laying on of hands than by the use of herbs. And, finally, it is a world where Lord Darcy, the Chief Forensic Investigator for the Duke of Normandy moves through a very Victorian-era version of the 1960s. He is the greatest detective of his time and uses all his powers of deduction--aided by the powers of the occult.
This book is comprised of four short stories that are full of the flavor of Holmes and Watson, Wolfe and Goodwin and little bit of the cloak and dagger spy trade thrown in. And, "The Muddle of the Woad" has a definite air of tribute to Lord Peter Wimsey--The Nine Tailors in particular. Instead of bell-ringing, we have a focus on woodworking. But a great many of the character names used by Sayers in the bell-ringing scenes may be found here--Masters Gotobed, Lavender, Wilderspin and Venable all tip their hats to the Sayers work. And Master Gotobed is every bit as particular about his woodworking as Harry Lavender ever was about bell-ringing. There is even evidence given by the young woman of the piece--just as Hilary Thorpe provides a vital clue to Lord Peter.
Overall, Randall Garrett has given us a fine look at what the world might have been like in such an alternate history. And he mixes the best of fantasy and detective fiction to produce a very interesting collection of science fiction short stories. The mysteries are fairly straight-forward and most are fairly clued. The final (and shortest), "A Stretch of the Imagination," is the most Holmes-like with Lord Darcy appearing very much as the detective genius with admiring audience and few clues given to the reader, but it is the exception. A very entertaining book--coming in at 3 1/2 stars.