The fifth collection of a dozen stories about the Black Widowers--that circle of self-styled intellectuals chronically unable to solve the riddles their dinner guests pose until they're rescued by their colorless waiter Henry. The stories, which rarely take the form of whodunits, return in some ways to the earliest detective stories in the range of problems they pose. How could someone have stolen a prize recipe from a locked house? What became of a cameraman who left his hotel for an engagement across the street but never arrived? Why would someone steal an old purse, then return its contents to the owner? But this freedom is purchased at a heavy price--for the stories are as gimmicky as ever, as tiresomely formulaic, as padded with vacuous conversation or smug didacticism, and as devoid of interest as intellectual puzzles for anyone who doesn't much care what work of literature might well be (there's a large dose of "might" in every solution) indicated by the phrase "triple devil," or what kind of man might call himself "Dark Horse." The Black Widowers invariably begin their grilling of their guests with the supremely churlish question "How do you justify your existence?"--an unusually apt question to put to this book. Asimov promises in two separate notes to continue the series "for as long as I live." A chilling thought.