Tuesday, September 7, 2010

It's In The Atmosphere

I've recently completed a gem of a book by Isaac Asimov (Tales of the Black Widowers). Asimov's known as a science fiction writer, but boy, does he know how to create a wonderful atmosphere for short, cerebral mysteries!

Without giving any tale away, I'd like to draw your attention to the construct of the book: A group of men meet up, once a month, away from their prying wives, and one of them invites a guest -a guest who needs a mystery to be solved by this group. They have to rely on their brains to solve it within this party's time. Of course, they have a lot of fun- they call themselves the Black Widowers- and are served some delish food and drink by an unobtrusive waiter ( a pathologically honest guy called Henry) while they try to solve this problem. Their personalities often clash during this "grilling session" ; something that adds more spice to proceedings.

The twist to each tale is that Henry, the waiter, manages to solve every mystery after this stag group has tried and failed. All the stories are nice and uniquely gripping, but the atmosphere and the construct remains the same. There's also a connect between stories, but its never burdensome. And the author notes at the end of each story are a delight.

I conclude: Sometimes, it's not the story. It's in the atmosphere. Ask Wodehouse, or Arthur Conan Doyle. Or ask my rumbling stomach yearning for a food fix when a master writer creates a mood.