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Detective series written by Randall Garrett in the 1960s and 1970s, set in an Alternate History with two major branches from our own:

  1. King Richard the Lionheart survived the crossbow wound that killed him in our history, but the narrow escape caused him to reconsider his life and become a famously great monarch. Nobody ever got around to agitating for Magna Carta, and in the twentieth century the Plantagenet dynasty still rules absolutely in England -- not to mention France, most of the rest of western Europe, and North and South America.
  2. The course of scientific discovery went down a different path, with the result that magic and psychic powers are well-understood phenomena with clearly-defined rules (but nobody knows much, or cares, about the physical sciences).

As a result, in the 1970s, the Angevin Empire's society and technology largely resembles those of, to pick a comparison entirely at random, the Sherlock Holmes stories. But with wizards.

Lord Darcy is an official investigator for His Highness the Duke of Normandy, solving mysteries too weird or too politically sensitive for the normal police to handle. He is ably assisted by Master Sorcerer Sean O Lochlainn, a one-man magical CSI department.

In the later stories, Lord Darcy and Master Sean increasingly often become entangled in the espionage and counter-espionage of their world's version of the Cold War, between the Angevin Empire and the ambitious-but-not-strong-enough-to-wage-conventional-war Polish Empire.

Lord Darcy was introduced in 1964. Murder and Magic (1979) and Lord Darcy Investigates (1981) collect all of the Lord Darcy stories, bar two that were published later. Garrett also wrote one Lord Darcy novel, Too Many Magicians (1966), which fits between. A 2002 omnibus edition collects all three books and the two stray stories. In the 1980s, following Garrett's death, his friend and fellow-author Michael Kurland wrote two more Lord Darcy novels, Ten Little Wizards (1988) and A Study in Sorcery (1989).


The series provides examples of:

  • Allohistorical Allusion: In one of Kurland's novels, a character views paintings of Plantagenet monarchs past, and speculates about how horribly history could've gone, had King Richard died sooner and the throne had passed to his Jerkass brother instead of his nephew.
  • Always Murder: Well, mostly. Subverted in one story, where it turns out they already know what the victim died of, and just need Darcy to figure out where he'd hidden an important document before he snuffed it.
  • Asshole Victim: Very much so in "The Eyes Have It"
  • Author Existence Failure
  • The Baroness: Olga Polovski, Agent 055 of the Polish Secret Service.
  • Black Magic
    • Combined with Saintly Church, in that performing any kind of harmful deed through magic (even injuring a criminal in defensive combat) causes irreparable mental damage of some sort. The clergy function as a sort of magical psychologists, though they can't "cure" people of the resulting (or causative!) evilness, they can magically detect psychosis and render such people incapable of working magic to prevent further harm to a black magician's mind. As a result, practicing magic requires an official license gained through examination by the clergy.
  • Blue Blood
  • Brilliant but Lazy: The Marquis of London.
  • Clarke's Third Law: Inverted. There are instances of devices that work on clearly understood principles, in our world, but in the Darcy world, their sages have no idea how they work, just that they do. Examples include the teleson (a telephone), and a device created by a top secret military research program: a flashlight.
  • Clear Their Name:
    • In "The Bitter End", Master Sean is accused of the murder by the bumbling Sergeant Cougair Chasseur.
    • Master Sean is also accused of the murder in Too Many Magicians, but it's only a ploy by the Marquis of London to get Lord Darcy to come and investigate the murder for him.
  • Combat Clairvoyance
  • Dead Man's Chest
  • Dead Person Impersonation: In "The Muddle of the Woad"
  • Detective Mole: In Too Many Magicians
  • Everybody Did It: Proposed and then shot down in "The Napoli Express", in a fairly obvious critique of Murder on the Orient Express.
  • Eye Remember: in "The Eyes Have It"
  • Faking the Dead: In Michael Kurland's A Study in Sorcery
  • Fantastic Catholicism
  • For Want of a Nail: The discovery that led to the harnessing of magic is presumably, somehow, a consequence of Richard the Lionheart's survival. (It might be easier to imagine a timeline in which Richard's survival was a consequence of the harnessing of magic, but it's explicitly stated that in this timeline Richard's survival came first.)
    • The explanation is that Richard's brush with death caused him to change his rulership style. For the remainder of his reign, he encouraged learning and the arts. And this trend continued under his successor; his nephew Arthur. It was the academic environment fostered by Richard and Arthur that led to the discovery of the rules of magic.
  • Functional Magic
  • Funetik Aksent: Polish characters who aren't trying to disguise themselves as Angevin subjects tend to have this.
  • Gentleman Wizard: Several minor characters (including a couple of victims). Recurring character Lord John Quetzal is an interesting case, as he's a nobleman and a gentleman, but he's from the colonies (Mexico, in our version of reality), which gives him some interesting quirks
  • Great Detective: both Darcy himself and the Marquis of London.
  • Intrinsic Vow: The King's Messengers all take one to never reveal an official message to anyone but the intended recipient. It's backed up by a magical compulsion to die rather then reveal it.
  • Istanbul Not Constantinople: Especially when it comes to the Americas.
  • It Will Never Catch On: In one story, a wizard speaks disparagingly of a folk superstition that wounds can be treated with a kind of mould. In another, a man engaged in chemical research is regarded as a time-wasting eccentric (although Darcy, at least, thinks he's on to something).
  • Locked Room Mystery: At least half the series. Notably, in spite of the obvious temptation, the answer is never "A Wizard Did It".
  • Magic A Is Magic A
  • Majored in Western Hypocrisy: Several instances, though all without the hypocrisy part because the Angevin Empire is better than its counterparts in our world. The most prominent example is Lord John Quetzal, a native American nobleman who is studying in London in Too Many Magicians. The "character wrong-footed by foreigner's education" version appears in Michael Kurland's A Study in Sorcery, where Lord Darcy meets a woman who has invented a dramatic past for herself that includes a stint in the harem of the son of the Osmanli Sultan; in the course of dissecting her story, he mentions that he and the son of the Osmanli Sultan were at Oxford together.
  • Mind Over Manners
  • Modern Mayincatec Empire: Garrett left the state of things in the Americas largely undefined, but Too Many Magicians mentions that the Aztec emperor Montezuma's descendants now rule "Mechicoe" as noblemen of the Angevin Empire. Michael Kurland's A Study in Sorcery, being set largely in North America, is much more specific, and adds that part of the Aztec Empire continues unabated farther south.
  • Mr. Exposition: Master Sean, who's a teacher when he's not helping bust criminals, has a tendency to accompany every forensic test he does with an explanatory lecture. Lord Darcy encourages him, even when he's seen this test done before, because the lecture is never exactly same, so there's always a chance to learn something.
  • Name's the Same: So, this is not another Pride and Prejudice Fan Sequel?
  • The Neidermeyer: The commander of Darcy's unit in "The Spell of War".
  • Noodle Incident: In "Too Many Magicians", a few of Darcy's unseen cases are mentioned in passing, but nothing more is revealed about them. Similarly, at least one case mentioned by a Fan Boy in "Ten Little Wizards" is not covered in the extant stories.
  • Origins Episode: "The Spell of War", one of the last-published stories, recounts the first meeting of Lord Darcy and Master Sean on a battlefield during their world's equivalent of World War II.
  • Only One Name: Lord Darcy's given name is never revealed.
  • Orient Express: "Murder on the Napoli Express" is set on the Angevin Empire's counterpart to the famous train.
  • Outlived Its Creator
  • Phone-in Detective: The Marquis of London (an Expy of Nero Wolfe)
  • Poirot Speak: Played with in "The Bitter End", which is set in Paris and features the alternate universe version of Inspector Clouseau.
  • Richard Nixon the Used Car Salesman: In a world where the automobile was never invented, Ferarri of Milan is a noted manufacturer of firearms.
  • Royal We: King John IV uses this when speaking as King-Emperor and drops it on those rare occasions where he needs to speak man to man.
  • Saintly Church: Apparently magic makes it possible to ensure that only suitable people become priests (and has presumably cleared up the whole is-there-a-God question, although that point is never really addressed).
  • Shout-Out/Literature: Various stories guest-star alternate universe versions of other famous detectives and secret agents, not to mention one or two other SF writers.
    • One example is found in the novel Too Many Magicians. My Lord the Marquis of London is an enormously fat man who grows orchids and leaves all the foot work to his assistant Lord Bontriomphe.
  • Spell Construction: altough magic is limited to those with the talent, actually casting a spell requires intricate and specific ingredients and actions.
  • The Stars Are Going Out: In "The Ipswich Phial", a top-secret magical effect makes Father Lyon think this has happened, by suppression all light from celestial bodies in a localized area.
  • Stealth Pun: The infamous subplot in Too Many Magicians involving the uncle from the Isle of Man.
  • Summation Gathering: Most notably in Too Many Magicians, but also in several of the other stories.
  • Sufficiently Analyzed Magic: a key element to the whole series.
  • That Old Time Prescription: The superstitious folk remedies mentioned above under "It Will Never Catch On" are of this type.
  • Thriller on the Express: The Napoli Express
  • Trapped by Gambling Debts: happens to one character in Too Many Magicians.
  • Tuckerization: Michael Kurland gets name-checked several times in various stories, and the greatest wizards of the Angevin Empire include Sir Lyon Gandolphus Grey (L Sprague De Camp by way of JRR Tolkien), Sir Edward Elmer (E. E. "Doc" Smith), and Sir James Zwinge (Randall James Zwinge, aka The Amazing Randi).
  • Twin Telepathy: A minor plot point in Michael Kurland's A Study in Sorcery.
  • Uncoffee: Referred to instead as "caffe".
  • Unfriendly Fire: In "The Spell of War", Darcy, a young officer at the time, chooses not to notice that the commander of his unit -- who'd been a tyrant and endangered the men -- had a bullet entry wound on his back from a pistol... received when he'd been facing the enemy, who was using a rifle.
  • Utility Magic
  • A Worldwide Punomenon: Especially when it comes to the literary shout-outs, which are often veiled behind the French equivalent of Canis Latinicus, as with master-spy James le Lien[1], or the sedentary Marquis of London's invaluable assistant, Lord Bontriomphe[2].
    • Also, one story has the local policeman suggest that the victim was attacked by a demon or fire elemental; Master Sean soon disproves the hypothesis, and it seems to have been thrown in largely as an excuse to have somebody say "Elemental, my dear Doctor".
  • Witch Species: In order to practice magic, one must be born with "the Talent". This exists to varying degrees, such that only a small portion of the population can work magic, some others exhibit strange powers, nearly all can at least perceive strong magic to some extent, and a few on the other end are magically inert and utterly unable to directly sense the supernatural.
    • Interestingly, the world's foremost magical theorist and expert in the symbolic manipulations underlying modern magic happens to be in the last category.

Notes

  1. "lien" = "bond"
  2. "bon triomphe" = "good win"
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