Too Many Magicians
By Randall Garrett
Published by Audible Inc
Read by Victor Villar-Hauser
One of my greatest concerns as a writer is that I might accidentally plagiarize another’s work. I would certainly never do so intentionally, but in this case I came darned close to doing so without realizing it. In the first book of my series, “The Wayfarers” I set up a situation at an academic conference in which two scholars found they were presenting papers on the same topic and with essentially the same conclusion. A few hours later one of them is found dead and the other is accused of his murder. At the time I thought I had based that on a story I had heard at a real conference about two archaeologists in a similar situation and arguing over who stole what from whom (without one of them dropping dead mysteriously, of course.). However, now I wonder if I borrowed the situation from Randall Garrett’s Too Many Magicians which starts out with two magicians at a conference who find themselves in that exact same position, and one does die that evening in mysterious circumstances. (Of course, the circumstances are mysterious! This is a Lord Darcy story, after all!)
Happily, I think I can exonerate myself in this case. While the situations are very similar from the start, how I handled it is very different from how Garrett did. Garrett’s was a classic “Locked Room” mystery, mine was not. None of our clues were the same, none of the characters bear any real similarity to one another, the importance of the incidents were quite different between our two stories and the ways they were resolved were completely different. But if I was inspired by this story, all I can say is, “If you are going to steal, steal from the best!” and Randall Garrett was definitely one of the best.
In this case the accused is Master Sean O’Lochlainn, the Watson to Darcy’s Holmes, the Robin to Darcy’s Batman, the Bert to Darcy’s Ernie, the Bullwinkle to Darcy’s Rocky, the Tattoo to Darcy’s Roarke, the Grommit to Darcy’s Wallace… or is that the other way around? I could keep this up for hours , but, yes, Master Sean is Darcy’s sidekick, a forensic sorcerer of great talent. He is cleared fairly quickly, but that just makes the case incredibly more complex.
This is the only novel featuring Lord Darcy that was written by Garrett, although Michael Kurland (my favorite obscure author) wrote another two about twenty years later, which I also recommend highly. As such it, perhaps gives us the best insight into Darcy’s personality and ability to reason deductively. It is also nice to see him dealing with a more complex mystery than we see in the shorter stories. This time around even when we know who, what, where, and when, we still need to find out why. In all this is a great story for fans of the fantasy and mystery genres alike. The story has humor, some clever puns (not the usual lame word play authors known for punning use) with tips of the hat to Nero Wolfe, Archie Goodwin, James Bond and even Gandalf the Grey. It also feature action, a well-devised mystery plot and interesting characters. Lots of fun! It’s just a shame this was the only Darcy novel Garrett wrote. There should have been more.
I really enjoyed the reading by Victor Villar-Hauser although it was not without a few flaws. In his attempt to assign each character a distinct accent, he strays into “Funny Voices” territory more than a few times. I think I mentioned the last time I review the Lord Darcy stories that I was uncertain is modern accents for an alternative timeline in which the Plantagenets not only still reign, but continue to hold their Angevin Empire to and beyond its furthest extent as it stood in our real-life history. Surely the Maurice Chevalier accent for some of the Frenchmen has to be wrong and I seriously doubt many of the various British accents he chose to use would have come to be. Surely the language would have remained closer to Middle English? Maybe not, but would it have sounded like it does in our world? Probably not. Still, I was able to shrug that off, but his supposed Irish accent for Master Sean was inconsistent and kept wandering closer to Liverpool than Dublin.
However, the funny voices aside, he read the book in a clear and lively manner than allowed me to overlook his reading’s shortcomings. So all in all, an excellent book and a good reading of it.