Posts Tagged ‘Richard I of England’

Murder and Magic

September 1, 2016

Writing a detective story in a science fiction or fantasy setting can be a hazardous undertaking because of the temptation for the writer to cheat by having his hero pull out some gadget that will destroy the suspect’s alibi by showing everyplace he’s been for the last twenty-four hours or casting a magic spell that shows the blood on his hands, literal or not. In order for the mystery writer to play fair with the readers and write a whodunit worth reading, he has to set out the rules and limitations of the advanced technology or magic that his world uses to solve crimes. He need not make the rules explicit in the story, but they have to be there in the background, and they have to be reasonably consistent.

Randall Garrett did an excellent job of combining the mystery and fantasy genres in his Lord Darcy series of stories. Set in an alternate world in which Richard the Lion Hearted managed to survive the accidental crossbow shot that killed in real life.  Instead, the near death experience prompted King Richard to settle down from fighting and crusading and seriously try to govern the lands he ruled, resulting in an Angevin Empire that survives into the twentieth century. Richard also patronised scholars and scientists which led to the discovery of the laws of magic. By the time of Garrett’s stories, the Angevin Empire of England and France, along with the Americas and other colonies is the leading world power and magic is used in everyday applications, much as science and technology are used in ours. Magicians can cast spells to preserve food, secure homes, communicate over long distances, and help solve crimes.

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In this world, Lord Darcy is the Chief Forensic Investigator for the Duke of Normandy. In the course of his duties, Lord Darcy solves crimes and untangles international intrigues, assisted by the forensic sorcerer Sean O’ Lochlainn. Despite the fantasy setting, the cases Lord Darcy investigates are mostly the sort that can be found in any mystery story. Magic is not often used to commit the crimes and Sean O’Lochlainn’s techniques are rather like the more scientific procedures that might be familiar to a viewer of a show like CSI. Magic is a substitute for science in Lord Darcy’s world and a forensic sorcerer can no more solve a crime by magic in that world than a crime scene technician can “magically” solve a crime in our own.

Murder and Magic is Randall Garrett’s  first collection of  Lord Darcy stories. The collection includes four short stories with cases involving a supposed suicide, mistaken identities and blackmail, and a plot by the King of Poland, England-France’s chief international rival, to disrupt the Atlantic trade. I found each of the stories to be entertaining and finished the book wanting to read more. I think that anyone who enjoys reading either mysteries or fantasies will find the stories that combine the two genres to be worth reading.

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A Royal Baby

July 22, 2013

Our British friends are celebrating the birth of the newest addition to the royal family. Catherine, the duchess of Cambridge gave birth to a boy. This newborn is now the third in line to the throne, after Princes Charles and William. I suppose its a good thing to know that the royal line will continue for another generation though there is no shortage of heirs to the throne. The Wikipedia article lists fifty people but states that there are several thousand people potentially in line to the throne.

I don’t think they have released any photographs of the new prince yet. If the young royals need a baby sitter, I understand that Mr. Bean is available, though perhaps they might not want to take advantage.

They also haven’t released the name of the baby yet and people are taking bets on what names will be chosen. I wouldn’t care to speculate myself, but I can guarantee that the name chosen will not be John. There was only one King John of England who was not a very successful king. His legacy has been so negative that no royal prince has been named John since his time.

In case you’re not that familiar with English history, John reigned from 1199 to 1216. He was the youngest son of Henry II and the brother of Richard I the Lion-Hearted. He wasn’t actually a complete disaster as king. He made the administration of his government more efficient and continued the judicial reforms of Henry II. He paid more attention to England than his brother Richard, who was always off crusading. Unfortunately he was unsuccessful at war and during his reign, England lost most of its territory on the continent to France, earning John the name of lackland and soft sword with his barons. He managed to alienate the Pope, who placed England under the interdict, and his barons, who rebelled and forced him to sign the Magna Carta in 1215. When it became clear that King John would not adhere to the Magna Carta, the barons rebelled again and invited Louis, the son of Phillip II of France to be their king. They changed their minds when John died in 1216 and his nine year old son Henry III became king and Louis had to go back to France. No one in England wants a king so bad that rule by the French is preferable, so the royal family avoids the name John.


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