Book review: Isaac Asimov — The Union Club Mysteries

This anthology collected the first 30 stories from a monthly series of mystery shorts Asimov wrote for Eric Potter at Gallery magazine. The frame story for the series is a group of four men who sit together at their club. One of their number claims to have a background in intelligence, and has a habit of telling stories about problems he has solved for the police and intelligence services. The problems are typically in the form of lateral thinking puzzles, and Griswold invariably finishes by commenting that the answer was obvious, and waiting for his companions to admit that they can’t work it out before giving them the answer (thus also giving the reader a chance to try to work it out before the answer is revealed). With only 2000 words to play with each month, the stories are of necessity fairly pared down and low on characterisation. They’re often great fun, and I find it entertaining to watch the ongoing frame story about the narrator and his two friends trying to decide whether Griswold is telling the truth about his past or pulling their legs; but if you don’t like bad puns you won’t like a fair few of these little mysteries, and some of them have dated badly.

I enjoyed the collection, though it’s more of a book for dipping into occasionally than reading all the way through in one sitting. I find them excellent for when I want something that will occupy me for five or ten minutes without making it difficult for me to put down the book at the end of a chapter. The collection has kept me entertained through more than a few bouts of 3 am insomnia when I wanted something light and short to focus on that I could put down again as soon as I felt sleepy.

It’s not really worth going to a lot of effort to lay hands on a copy, but if one comes your way it’s well worth trying a few of the stories.

LibraryThing entry
at Amazon UK
at Amazon US

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