Garrett, Randall: Lord Darcy

Since Sunday, I’ve basically just read things that happened to be lying around, since I’ve either been packing, moving, or working on some academic stuff.

I re-read Randall Garrett’s Lord Darcy pretty much piecemeal over Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. This is an omnibus of three books, one novel—Too Many Magicians—and two collections—Murder and Magic and Lord Darcy Investigates. As the titles suggest, these are alternate-history fantasies that riff on classic mysteries. Among the supporting cast in Too Many Magicians are two characters who are rather like Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin (for more on which, see below, but who appear in books including Too Many Clients,  . . . Cooks, and  . . . Women), and Lord Darcy investigates a crime or two not dissimilar to those that Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter investigated.

The alternate-history conceit of these books is in two parts. First, Richard I didn’t die on the Crusades but settled down after recovering from his wounds and became a very good king, and the Plantagenets have ruled the Anglo-French empire ever since (it’s about the 1960s in this alternate world, or about present-day to when Garrett was writing). Second, the Laws of Magic were discovered before the laws of science, and have been worked out as thoroughly as science was in this world. (Materialism is presently scorned.)

The feel of the world is a bit odd, as the existence of a competent ruling dynasty apparently means the preservation of the aristocracy and certain courtly forms of manner and dress, yet the tech level encompasses railroads, elevators, and horse-drawn carriages with pneumatic tires. There’s also fairly large amounts of info-dumping going on; I happen to think that the information being dumped is amusing, but other people might have less tolerance of the form. They lend themselves well to being read piecemeal, though, and I enjoy them.

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