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A book review by Eric Weeks

This review was written in February, 1999.
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"Whatdunits" edited by Mike Resnick, Daw Books, 1992.

This is a collection of 18 science fiction mysteries. The editor, Mike Resnick, came up with many different possibilities for mysteries, and the authors were given the choices and wrote stories around each of Resnick's outlines. Many of the authors I haven't heard of, although most of the stories are reasonably well-written and enjoyable. The authors I had heard of before include Pat Cadigan, Jack C. Haldeman II, Katharine Kerr, Judith Tarr, and Michael A. Stackpole.

None of these stories struck me as particularly outstanding, although almost all of them are enjoyable to read. Occasionally a story got too involved in unnecessary details and red herrings. But by and large the stories are a good mix of sf elements and an intriguing mystery -- and nearly all of the mysteries depend on the sf elements in a solid way. My favorite story was by Roger MacBride Allen, about aliens investigating the death of another alien, killed by monkeys on Earth. The aliens make no distinction between humans and monkeys, insisting that the monkeys are sentient and thus murderers. Resnick's plot outline for the story ends with "Handle it straight or funny, as you wish." The story is generally told in a serious fashion, but has a large number of footnotes which put spins on the story, making it quite hilarious -- thus the story works successfully both on a serious level and a funny level. It's a clever story and entertaining.

The bottom line for this book is that the stories generally aren't solid sf stories, but as combination sf/mysteries they work very well. If such a combination intrigues you, you'll like this book.

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