Published in 1980, this book represents the third collection of the Black Widowers written by Isaac Asimov. Most of these Mystery Fiction stories were originally published in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, but three stories are brand-new, published here for the first time ever!
The introduction starts off with a brief summary explaining what this book contains, and his amazement that no-one has told him to stop. It continues by pointing out that the stories within these pages are not the style that seem to be popular with the current decade. Nevertheless, Dr Asimov has been focused on providing a fair mystery that anyone might be able to solve. The rest of each story is given to good food and good conversation, and his readers seem to appreciate this greatly, and Dr Asimov appreciates being allowed to continue writing these stories.
Works in the collection:
- "The Cross Of Lorraine"
- "The Family Man"
- "The Sports Page"
- "Second Best" (new)
- "The Missing Item"
- "The Next Day"
- "None So Blind"
- "The Backward Look"
- "What Time Is It?" (new)
- "Middle Name" (new)
- "To The Barest"
Examples of tropes from the collection:
- The Annotated Edition: This collection has an introduction to explain the purpose behind the collection, and an afterword for each story to explain more details about the publication.
- Anthology: This book represents the third collection of the Black Widowers mysteries.
- Billed Above the Title:
- Book-Ends: Dr Asimov ends the introduction with the promise that he will continue to write more stories of the Black Widowers as long as he can write, and he ends the final afterword with the same promise.
- Covers Always Lie:
- There are several different covers for this book, but most are relatively honest, featuring dinnerware and a blank background.
- The Fawcett Crest cover features a black spider, representing their Animal Metaphor, dragging a question mark bound in silk. Naturally such an image never occurs in any of the stories.
- Design Student's Orgasm: It's very unclear what the French translation is trying to show. Red, white, and varying tones between those two.
- Fair-Play Whodunnit: (Conversational Troping) In the introduction, Dr Asimov explains that he tries hard to write each story to make it possible for readers to solve before The Summation by Henry. Assuming the letters are honest, some of his readers do exactly that.
- Fancy Dinner: (Conversational Troping) In the introduction, Dr Asimov points out that he spends roughly three-quarters of each story on the meal/conversation and only one-quarter on the mystery, but his fans seem to enjoy it.
- Hard Boiled Detective: (Conversational Troping) In the introduction, Dr Asimov contrasts what he sees as the then-current style of sex and violence focused detective stories with his upper-crust society members solving minor mysteries while at an expensive restaurant.
- Minimalistic Cover Art: The Doubleday cover has a black background, with the focus on a knife and fork framing a fancy dinner invitation that holds the title and author's name.
- Phone-In Detective: (Conversational Troping) In the introduction, Dr Asimov contrasts his Black Widowers with what he sees as modern detective stories, since his stories involve an expensive meal for upper-crust members that casually solve a mystery that often doesn't involve criminal activity.
- Strictly Formula: (Conversational Troping) In the afterword for "The Sports Page", Dr Asimov outlines the formula for his Black Widowers stories.In some ways, there is a certain inflexibility about my scheme for writing Black Widower stories. There is always the banquet and the general conversation; then the grilling and the presentation of the mystery; then the discussion and solution.
- Tagline: "A superb collection of mind-bending mysteries from earthly back alleys to far cosmic shores!"
- Write Who You Know: [In-Universe] (Conversational Troping) In the afterword to "The Family Man", Dr Asimov admits to using the occasional guest for inspiration behind his characters. He indirectly references James Randi as inspiration for his Amazing Larri (appearing first in "The Cross Of Lorraine"), and references his accountant for Simon Alexander in "The Family Man".