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January 09, 2010


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I'm not fond of private-eye mysteries, but I enjoyed the several (early) Paretsky novels that I read. Haven't picked one up in years, though.

I'm not that fond of regular mysteries. I like SF mysteries.

SF mysteries... As Larry Niven once wrote, those are hard to write. The fantasy ones too. My wife did two of those, and she had to make sure to clearly establish the limits of what could happen - one was a locked-room murder, inside of which the victim was found drowned.

I'm trying to think what SF mysteries I've read. Lois Bujold's stuff comes to mind first. Some of her Vorkosigan novels are mysteries: Komarr, Cetaganda, and Diplomatic Immunity most overtly. And some, like The Vor Game are pretty close, though the mystery plot (who is destabilizing the Hegen Hub?) is only one aspect of the story.

I read a fantasy police procedural by Keith DeCandido called Dragon Precinct but did not care for it, which is awkward since Keith is a friend. And, of course, Saberhagen's The Holmes-Dracula File is an old favorite of mine. I guess The Dracula Dossier was a mystery, but I didn't like it. Likewise Disappearing Nightly didn't really do it for me.

No others are coming to mind, but I'm sure that just means I'm forgetting some since I don't deliberately seek them out as a subgenre.

Mary Aileen,
The V.I. novels have gotten much richer and more complex over the years, as well as doubling in length. The formula is starting to show a little too much, but they're still extremely good. I don't read much in the private eye genre in general, but I've always liked these since I got into them with Guardian Angel back in 1992.

I should also mention that they're sequential, and I think V.I. is aging in real-time. This doesn't affect the individual mystery plots, which are entirely self-contained, but there are minor characters and personal subplots (like her love life) that evolve from book to book. I think Hardball stands on its own, and Paretsky does not clutter it up with irrelevant backstory, but it's a richer reading experience knowing those details.

There was a movie made in 1991. It was called (surprise!) V.I. Warshawski, and starred Kathleen Turner. I don't know how faithful it was to the books. Probably not much.

SF mysteries that I have read... Larry Niven's Long A.R.M. of Gil Hamilton short stories. Asimov's Caves of Steel and other novels about Lije Baley and Daneel Olivaw. (A bit of googling reveals that, in 1964, the BBC aired its adaptation of Caves, starring Peter Cushing as Baley. Now, this is something I'd like to see.)

Susan: I eventually just got tired of Paretsky. No reflection on the books themselves, but I doubt I'll go back.
The first science fiction book I ever read was Asimov's Mysteries, a collection of science fiction mysteries in short story form. (My brother had just bought it; it was the only book in the car where I was stuck waiting for him and my mother. I was 13 and thought I hated science fiction. I was wrong.) Asimov of course wrote straight mysteries as well, as well as just about everything else except romance.

Mary Aileen... I read some of his non-SF mysteries set in what what called the Widowers Club, I think. As for that story collection that you mentionned, I should probably look for it.

Serge: It's probably long out of print (I was 13, now I'm 40-mumble), but there are lots of used copies available.

Mary Aileen...

Hah! You're barely 40 and you already consider yourself old. What does that make me, what with my 55th birthday being a few months away?
I heard that.

Anyway... I just bought the book - along with the 4th (and last?) "Women of Wonder" anthology - thru Alibris.

Darn kids.
No respect for their elders.

Serge: No, no, not barely 40, 40-I'm-not-telling-you-how-much. :)

I hope you enjoy the book(s).

Well, Mary Aileen, true gentlemen don't ask a lady about her age.
("You're a gentleman, Serge? That's a new one.")
Thanks for the recommendation. It's not like I'll be book-less any time soon, but I'm always glad to find out about other stories.

The most recent SF mystery I've read is The Prefect by Alastair Reynolds, and I really liked that.

A series of SF mysteries that I enjoyed is the late Randall Garrett's tales of Lord Darcy, investigator for the Crown in an alternate history where magic is scientifically studied and many things we'd regard as science are considered baseless superstition. (Lord Darcy's sidekick is a sorceror who handles the CSI tasks like casting spells on bullets to find out which gun they were fired out of.) I think you'd like them, Serge; Garrett was also a connoisseur of dreadful puns, and there are some doozies in the Lord Darcy series.

The series is, incidentally, an interesting edge case in the what-is-science-fiction? debate. It's got wizards in it, but the stories were originally published in places like Analog Science Fiction and Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine. Well, there's a lot of stretch in sciency terms like "alternate history" and "psionics", but it also helped, I think, that Garrett played fair - there was magic, but it was magic that followed definite and explicable rules.

Roughly half of the stories are locked-room mysteries, and there isn't a one in which the answer is "It was done with magic."

Oh! Lord Darcy! Of course! I knew I was forgetting something. I love those stories and still reread them regularly. Serge, you'd definitely like them.

Lord Darcy, of course... I read a couple of those stories in the 1970s. I should probably look up some of the collections.

I think you'd like them, Serge; Garrett was also a connoisseur of dreadful puns

"I'm not sure, but I think we've been insulted."
"I'm sure."

No, no! That was a compliment; dreadful puns are the only type worth bothering with.

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