A young man who works as a secretary and gofer for his uncle, a moderately successful writer, and who is his uncle’s only heir, comes up with an ingenious scheme for bringing about the old man’s demise.
This story appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, and was Asimov’s first sale there. AHMM tends to focus more on suspense and less on crime-solving than its sister magazine, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, where Asimov usually published his mystery stories (or such was the case in 1973—I have never read either magazine, so I can only go by Asimov’s experience).
The result is a rather stronger story than is usually the case for Asimov’s mysteries, because it isn’t a puzzle story challenging the reader to find the solution before the story’s end. There is more focus on character, particularly since it depends on the use of psychology to manipulate someone into doing something you can’t do yourself. Character studies are basically unheard of in Asimov, and this little tale comes about as close as anything he wrote to being one.
(Since the story mentions the fan mail received by a well-known author from some of his more eccentric followers, I will confess there is an additional resonance for me.)
All-in-all, this is one of Asimov’s stronger mystery stories.
|The Best Mysteries of Isaac Asimov|