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Randall Garrett was an American Science Fiction and Fantasy writer. His most memorable contribution to the genres was his stories featuring Lord Darcy. When he passed away in 1987 writer Michael Kurland was contracted to write two more novels with the same characters. What makes these mysteries different is that they take place in an alternate world where magic is the new science.

In Lord Darcy’s world Richard the Lionhearted did not die of his wounds during the Crusades and went on to establish the Angevin Empire, which encompasses the British Isles, France, and the New World. The main opponent of this Empire is Poland and their secret service Serka. Magic became standardized and regulated by the church and healing was mainly the laying on hands by people with that magic skill.

Lord Darcy is an investigator first for Duke Richard and then King John. His right hand man is an Irish magician named Master Sean O’Lochlainn. Darcy has traits of Sherlock Holmes but is infinitely more likeable.

The most readily available of Garrett’s books is the three in one omnibus that includes the two short story collections Murder and Magic and Lord Darcy Investigates and the novel Too Many Magicians.

In Murder and Magic Lord Darcy is faced with the death of an amoral Duke in The Eyes Have It. The two best stories in this section are A Case of Identity and The Muddle of the Woad. Both of these stories bring in the political intrigue and Darcy not only has to find the killers but try and keep alive from the Polish agents after him. This section ends with A Stretch of the Imagination. The story is okay and the solution interesting but it is the weakest of the stories.

Too Many Magicians is probably my favorite that Randall Garrett wrote. Garrett takes time to fill in the characters here although there is probably a bit too much borrowed from Sherlock Holmes. Darcy’s cousin is a portly genius that was obviously based on Mycroft Holmes. Darcy needs to solve a murder in France, get O’Lochlainn out of the Tower where he has been falsely accused of murder, solve a murder of a ranking magician, and keep a state secret out of the hands of the enemy. The book moves along with a solution I wasn’t really expecting. It is definitely a fun read.

In Lord Darcy Investigates I found A Matter of Gravity okay but kind of boring. The Ipswich Phial was a fun read and the political intrigue made this one of my favorite short stories. The Sixteen Keys was just plain weird as far as I’m concerned. The Napoli Express is Garrett’s tribute to Agatha Christie and Murder on the Orient Express.

Michael Kurland wrote two more Lord Darcy novels. Ten Little Wizards starts off as a homage to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None but soon takes a life of its own. Someone is killing off wizards and if that were not enough there are rumors of a plot to kill the King. This is the best Lord Darcy book since Too Many Magicians. The characters need a longer time to flesh them out then is done in the short stories.

A Study in Sorcery is the second Kurland book. He took the story to the new world and even though it was written in 1989 I feel the author was trying too hard to be politically correct and ended up not really succeeding. The story is okay and an interesting read but on a personal level I just couldn’t really get into it.

So if you are looking for something different in the way of mysteries a few hours with Lord Darcy is a fun way to go. And if you are anything like this Irish girl then you too will feel they should be called the Master Sean O’Lochlainn stories with Lord Darcy assisting.

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