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January/February 2021
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Murdercon, by Richard Purtill (1982)

As Anthony Boucher's Rocket to the Morgue (1942) showed, the science fiction world is irresistible fodder for writers of mystery novels. The milieu of the convention is particularly alluring, and over the years, we've seen The Case of the Little Green Men by Mack Reynolds (1951), Sci-Fi by William Marshall (1981), A Murder Waiting to Happen by L. A. Taylor (1989), "Gather in the Hall of Planets" by "K. M. O'Donnell" (Barry Malzberg), and Bimbos of the Death Sun by Sharyn McCrumb (1987), and its sequel, Zombies of the Gene Pool (1992)…and let's not forget Isaac Asimov's Murder at the ABA (1976), in which the detective is modeled on Harlan Ellison.

Perhaps the least known of these tales, Murdercon deserves a better fate. Middle-aged philosophy professor Athena Pierce has recently sold a fantasy novel, so she flies to San Diego while her husband is off at an academic conference. There she witnesses the titular murder, and it just happens the investigating detective is an old friend of her husband. What ensues is a cozy mystery with lots of clues (some involving a lost Weinbaum story), action, and a cheerful portrait of a con where people dress as Darth Vader and play hallway games inspired by Logan's Run.

Like this novel's heroine, Richard Purtill (1931-2016) was a philosophy professor in eastern Washington state. He published five other novels in the early '80s but is mostly known for his books on philosophy and religion.

Thomas Kaufsek

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