This is part of my 2nds challenge.

Another collection of the charming Lord Darcy –stories set in an alternative universe where magic works and England is a great Empire. This collects four short stories: “The Eyes Have It”, “A Case of Identity”, “The Muddle of the Woad”, and “A Stretch of the Imagination”. All of them are, of course, murder cases among nobility and Lord Darcy investigates them.

The Eyes Have It: A rather notoriously lecherous Count D’Evreux is found shot in his bedroom. There’s no shortage of suspects and it seems that almost anyone could have killed the man; an enraged husband or father, a wronged woman herself, or even some of the houseguests. Laird Duncan and his wife are the guests at the Count’s Castle. The case isn’t easy for Lord Darcy and Master Sean, his trusted sorcerer side kick.

A Case of Identity: The Duke of Normandy himself calls in Lord Darcy when the Marquis of Cherborough goes missing. Apparently, the Marquis has been suffering from mild attacks of amnesia which might make things very difficult indeed. Also, he seemed to have disappeared from a locked castle without a trace.

The Muddle of the Woad: This time, Lord Darcy is enjoying a much needed vacation when the King John IV himself sends his lordship to solve the mystery of the death of the Chief Investigator of Kent. The poor man had been found naked and dyed blue in a coffin which had been made for the elderly Duke of Kent. The coffin had also been in the woodworker’s locked shop. The Duke himself had died on the previous evening. If that wasn’t enough for a mystery, the blue dye points towards a secret cult: the Holy Society of the Secret Albion. Now, the King himself is concerned and Lord Darcy starts to investigate.

A Stretch of the Imagination: the shortest story in the collection where an owner of a publishing house has been found hanged. But Lord Darcy isn’t convinced that it’s suicide. Of course, the owner wasn’t well liked – to say the least.

All of the stories are good and for most of them it’s possible to deduce who did it. The second story is perhaps an exception to this. But most of the time, the clues are there if you can see them.

Lord Darcy isn’t a really colorful character and we know next to nothing about his life outside work, although there are hints that he might not have private life at all. Master Sean O’Lachlann is Darcy’s faithful underling and friend, a Watson and CSI sorcerer in one. Darcy himself doesn’t have the Talent for magic. The rest of the characters vary from story to story and they’re often entertaining enough. I was a bit disappointed that the vast majority of them are males. Here, the women are very clearly mothers, sisters, daughters or wives to the more important male characters.

I find the alternative history aspects fascinating, as usual. There doesn’t seem to be much social change and society has been frozen in the strict, Victorian classes.

Magic is treated as a science and one magical theorist actually complains that the common people as too superstitious to understand the real scientific magic. Sorcerers need licenses and seem to be strictly regulated. The Church has all the healers. Apparently there are witches and hedge mages to whom the common people often go to.

It seems to me that this world doesn’t have any female healers. That might have been refreshing except that healing is tied strongly to the Catholic Church where, of course, only males can be priests. So, what happens to women with the healing Talent? Burned at the stake for being abominations? Although, most likely their Talents just go ignored. Also, Garrett would hardly be the first to have magical Talents segregated by gender. (Which I find rather unimaginative, boring, and unrealistic. And yes, I realize the idiocy of demanding magic to be “realistic”. Still, none of the talents that we know humans to have in reality, are confined to just one gender.)

But these are really nitpicks. I’ve enjoyed the Lord Darcy stories and his world, and I’ve already hunted down the third collection. Although there seems to be now a book which collects all the Darcy stories and includes four stories not in the other collections. Predictably, that one’s not available through BookMooch.

By the way, I noticed that many of Garrett’s science fiction stories are available in ebook format but the Lord Darcy stories aren’t. Why is that?

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