Available 03 Jan 2023

What’s a high-functioning Sherlock Holmes type to do in the face of a gullible, tarot-believing public? Fleece them for everything they’re worth, while solving all of their crimes, of course!

Together with his charming assistant Valeska Wynne, Astro, the “Master of Mysteries” (as he styles himself to his audience) enjoys a stable lifestyle on the back of the gullible citizenry, reading palms and telling fortunes. Using his superb powers of observation and scientific reason, as well as his skill with misdirection, Astro pulls the wool over both the eyes of his clients… and the criminals trying to outwit him!

The individual mysteries run the gamut, from stolen jewels to murder. Astro gets the cases that a private detective wouldn’t touch, and frequently finds himself embroiled in mysteries that only a so-called psychic would be pulled into. His role allows him to play the air-headed young fool for those who are skeptical, or the wise and mysterious mystic for the gullible. Together with the beautiful and intelligent Valeska, Astro solves those cases that the police would never get to see.

However, these stories break with genre expectations in some delightful ways. Firstly, Astro may be the hero, but the Armenian-Buddhist charlatan frequently relies on the cunning and detective skills of his assistant, Valeska.

Perhaps surprising to readers of other works of the era, Valeska’s role is more nuanced and complex than those often handed to women in this type of pulp fiction. Likewise, the stories themselves exceed era expectations, offering readers an over-arching plot woven within the episodic structure of each mystery. In every way, these stories are far ahead of their time.

The Master of Mysteries reads like the incredibly snarky little brother of Sherlock Holmes, with each short story offering a snappy mixture of humor and entertaining action. The editor, Leslie S. Klinger, has also provided excellent footnotes to accompany the text, to aid the modern reader’s understanding of those apocryphal elements of the story that would have been commonplace knowledge in the early 1900s.

The humor in Master of Mysteries is sleek and engaging, and the mysteries are easy to sink into. Whether you are a fan of classic mysteries, or just finished your latest rewatch of Pysch, this collection is absolutely certain to become one of your all-time favorite weekend reads.

— Odin H. Halvorson

Master of Mysteries by Gelett Burgess (edited by Leslie S. Klinger)

Edition: Paperback
ISBN: 9781728264011
Price: $14.99 (USD)
Page: 496

Hi, my name is Odin HalvorsonI’m a writer, editor, and itinerant volunteer. I founded Round Table Writers after completing my MFA in creative writing, and my own writing can be found around the web. My regular book review column here at The Strand focuses on mystery and science fiction books from across the genre spectrum. Inquiries for reviews can be made here.