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A book is a literary compass that has the potential to direct our thoughts and actions:

"Everything we read stimulates our mind to think, and what we think determines what we desire, and desires are the seedbed of our actions. Given this iron law of human nature--from reading to thinking, to desiring, to acting--we are shaping our destiny by the ideas we choose to have enter our minds through print." - Fr. John Hardon, S.J., The Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Lord Darcy: Sherlock Holmes Meets Jonathan Strange

If you, like me, find the Harry Dresden series not to your taste, but like the idea of a magic-wielding detective, you might enjoy the Lord Darcy stories by Randall Garrett. Mix together Sherlock Holmes and Jonathan Strange, and add in a little alternate history, and you have an idea of what the Lord Darcy stories are all about.

What if Richard Lionheart didn't die, and what if the Protestant Reformation never happened? Garrett imagines an alternate history where in the twentieth century the Plantagenet dynasty still rules, and where magic works. Lord Darcy is the Chief Investigator for the Duke of Normandy, and along with his assistant, Master Sorcerer Sean O'Lochlainn, he deals with locked-room mysteries, espionage and murder. And if you like CSI, you'll enjoy reading how forensic sorcerer Sean O'Lochlainn applies the science of magic to crime scenes.

These stories are humorous, historically interesting, and extremely well plotted. There's a strong Catholic element present as well. They're a perfect next step for teenagers who like Harry Potter, and Lord Darcy's exploits would appeal to anyone who likes mysteries, alternate universes or contemporary fantasies.

The stories were all written between 1964 and 1979, but were not collected in one volume until 2002. As editor Eric Flint points out, they're filled with allusions to many of the famous detective stories of the 1960s and 1970s: Nero Wolfe, the Pink Pather and the Man from U.N.C.L.E., to name a a few. I highly recommend them, especially the full-length novel at the heart of the collection, Too Many Magicians.

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posted by Nick Senger at 7:49 AM

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