Monday, November 23, 2015

Murder at the ABA: Review

Darius Just, a second-string writer whose works are just "too good" for the average Joe who wants a good "Best Seller" main stream book, attends the ABA (American Booksellers Association) earlier than planned. His friend asks him to show up a day early to help with a public relations event and thus (in Just's mind at least) starts him down the path that leads to murder. One thing after another happens to put Just in just the right frame of mind to forget another favor that his protégé Giles Devore asks of him. When Devore winds up dead, Just is convinced his sin of omission may have been the catalyst and he sets himself the task of tracking down the killer.

The trouble is, Just and his conscience are the only ones who think there has even been a murder. The hotel security and the police all believe Devore simply slipped in the shower and died when his head met the porcelain.  Just spends the rest of the conference tracking down clues, interviewing (and annoying) possible suspects and witnesses, and basically composing the plot for the mystery novel that the fictional version of Asimov has been commissioned to write. Just's own life will be attempted and his delirious ravings after being coshed on the head himself will lead him to the last clue necessary to trap a murderer.

Back in the mists of time, I read Isaac Asimov's Murder at the ABA (1976; aka Authorised Murder) from either the local Carnegie library or the school library, I'm not sure which. I think I must have been coming off of an Asimov science fiction high, because I gave it a four-star rating. So, it was natural that I'd want a copy of my very own to reread some day. I picked up a copy sometime before 2010 (I didn't log just when) and when one of my fellow challengers read it for my Vintage Bingo Challenge, I decide it was time to pick it up again. I'm afraid I should have left it as a nostalgia piece.

This time around I was not nearly as charmed with Asimov's thinly-disguised Harlan Ellison protagonist, Darius Just nor with Asimov inserting himself into the narrative as comic relief. And I say that as someone who is incredibly fond of both Isaac Asimov and Harlan Ellison as writers. Just is annoyingly self-centered, despite his deprecating comments, and the peek at the 1970s treatment of women isn't nearly as amusing as Asimov thinks it is. When you add the fact that the killer (and the reason) is blazingly obvious from the chapter when the body is found (less than half-way through the book), I have to say that Mr. Asimov is not up to his usual standard. His Black Widower tales are much better mystery stories. 

★★ for an okay read. IF you manage to miss the clue when Just discovers the body, then it's possible the mystery will entertain--I'm assuming I did miss it back in the 80s. The banter between Asimov and Just, both in the narrative and in the footnotes, is amusing. And the book is a nice look at the 1970s convention/conference scene.

This fulfills the "Read by Another Challenger" square on the Silver Vintage Bingo card as well as giving me two more Bingos. Neer over at a hot cup of pleasure read this one (with more pleasure than I did this time round). Check out the review at the link.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for that Bev - I suspect that my reaction would be very close to yours. If I read this it was a long time ago but I tend to find most of Asimov'ss mysteries from that era a bit like that (love the robot books from the 50s though). Sooner or later I will re-read it though. Thanks chum.

Gram said...

I agree with your assessment. I didn't like it when I first read it and it would never be a re-read.

fredamans said...

I was hoping you loved it, especially since it was a re-read. Sorry to hear that wasn't the case. Great review!