Murder in Cormyr by Chet Williamson is a Forgotten Realms novel first published in 1996. It is the first book of the loosely connected Mystery series, together with Murder in Halruaa and Murder in Tarsis.

A vengeful ghost is only the first suspect when the body of Grodoveth, the king's envoy, is found separated from its head. It seems that everyone in town had either motive or opportunity to commit the... Murder in Cormyr.

The wizard Benelaius wanted only to find a nice quiet place to retire with his cats. The village of Ghars, close to the Vast Swamp, had little to recommend it except seclusion. Even the legends of a vengeful ghost who haunts the moors don't bother the aged wizard. The corpulent, sedentary mage is content to let his servant, Jasper, do all the legwork.

Benelaius's studies are rudely interrupted when the ghost begins to make nightly appearances, frightening the townspeople out of their wits. Heads begin to roll when the local blacksmith is murdered... but that corpse is barely cold when the decapitated body of the envoy Grodoveth is found in the ghost's tomb. As the most learned person in Ghars, how can Benelaius refuse to help his adopted town?

Axe-wielding ghosts give way to treachery and deceit as Benelaius, along with Jasper and the wizard's former apprentice, Lindavar, discover that even a sleepy, quiet village has many hidden secrets.
— Text from hardcover edition

Description[edit | edit source]

Murder in Cormyr is the second D&D novel from author Chet Williamson, after Mordenheim for the Ravenloft line. He had been commissioned by TSR, Inc. editor Brian Thomsen for these two work-for-hire novels. On his website, Williamson wrote that "While certainly not the most serious thing I've ever written, I took it seriously and did the best job I could while playing in someone else's world and by their rules." Having not even played D&D before, Williamson said he "pore[d] through the manuals for research for both this novel and Mordenheim, but never had to shake a pair of 27-sided dice."[3] Going by the chosen setting and references, two likely sources are Volo's Guide to Cormyr and Aurora's Whole Realms Catalogue, while there are only minor discrepancies ("weeks" and "o'clock" instead of tendays and "bells", and Evermeet and Sembia seeming much closer, the Vast Swamp less vast).

For the story, Williamson uses the model of "a sedentary wizard does the brainwork while his assistant does the footwork", presumably inspired by the Nero Wolfe stories by Rex Stout, with the retired wizard Benelaius in the role of armchair detective Nero Wolfe and his servant Jasper in the role of Archie Goodwin, though there are differences between them. Williamson adds "I used the old gag of supernatural fakery to cover up an all too natural series of murders."[3] Another literary reference is in the regular mentions of the in-universe stories of Camber Fosrick, a fictional detective in the vein of a C. Auguste Dupin or Sherlock Holmes.

The story is told with a first-person point-of-view—a comparative rarity in D&D novels—in the form of an account written by the protagonist Jasper following the events of the novel. The style is light and humorous and, as one would expect for a murder mystery, it focuses on conversation and investigation, with few battles and little-to-no magic. The result is a story that explores small-town life, ordinary people, and intrigues in Faerûn rather than epic adventures and the affairs of great mages and gods.

The cover shows an artwork by Larry Elmore titled "Unexpected Find", painted in 1995.[4] The exact scene appears nowhere in the events of Murder in Cormyr and similar scenes have several key differences, suggesting a miscommunication with Elmore or a borrowing of the existing "Unexpected Find" artwork as it appeared close enough to the spirit of the novel and its characters. (Perhaps a future mystery for Jasper and Benelaius?)

The cover proclaims that Chet Williamson was nominated for an Edgar Award, the Mystery Writers of America's award for mystery fiction named for Edgar Allan Poe.

Reception[edit | edit source]

Murder in Cormyr was very briefly previewed for the hardcover in Dragon #226, in February 1996, for the paperback in Dragon #248, in June 1998.

Reviews came later that year. Gideon Kibblewhite in English gaming magazine Arcane, issue #9, August 1996, saw it as based on Agatha Christie's Miss Marple (perhaps more familiar to an English reviewer) and described it as "certainly better" than its series-mate Murder in Tarsis but "Unfortunately, it is not nearly as clever, involved or funny as it might have been." The fact that "Terry Pratchett did a much better satire of the murder mystery with Feet of Clay" just before D&D's Murder series may not have aided the book's reception. Nevertheless, the review concedes its "strength is simply that it serves as a reminder that there is a certain amount of mileage to be had out of the fantasy whodunnit". It gave a score of 4/10.[5] An uncredited review also appeared in the March 1997 issue of the The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.[6]

Despite this, Chet Williamson recalled that "the target audience of Forgotten Realms gamers seemed to enjoy it". And they do, with mixed to positive comments over the years at this Candlekeep forum thread and reviews on various other sites. In summary, Murder in Cormyr is said to be entertaining and well plotted, refreshingly different, and demonstrating the potential range of D&D storytelling.

Index[edit | edit source]

Characters[edit | edit source]

BenelaiusBortasBraumDarvikDovoDarrunFastredFlimGrimalkinGrodovethJasperJenkusKendraKhleratLindavarMenchukMuzlimMyrcrestRazorRobRolfShortshanksSkedmoorStubbinsSunfirthTobaldVangerdahastWillCedric BuckenwingTim ButterworthElizabeth ClawthornAunsible DurnBryn GoldtoothMrs. Barnabas HinkelPygmont KardathPhelos MarmwitzBarthelm MeadowbrockMayella MeadowbrockDiccon PicardHesketh PrattLukas Spoondrift
Referenced only
BeatriceBupkinCamber FosrickCarcroft the LongFendrakeFirewandHurthkinJamieKastorKirkabeyMagdaNedOdumSnaggardTrelaphinLinnaeus GozzlingArgys KralGuirath MoondockAzoun Obarskyr IVLodevin ParkarGarnet PennorthSarp RedbeardChelm VandorElduth Yarmmaster

Creatures[edit | edit source]

catdogdwarfghostgnomehalflinghorsehumanhydramouseravenskeletonthornslinger
Referenced only
basiliskbeholdercryohydradragonduergarelffeystagbullfroggibbering mouthergoblingrelllernaean hydraleucrottalichlizardmanmeazel (as "measle") • oliphantogrepyrohydrarevenantsnaketrollwerejaguarwightwill-o'-the-wispzombie

Locations[edit | edit source]

Buildings
Aunsible Durn's smithyBenelaius's cottageBold BardGhars librarySheaf of WheatSilver ScytheSwamp Rat
Settlements
Ghars
Geography
Vast Swamp
Realms
Cormyr
Referenced only
AnaurochArabelBattledaleDragonmereDurparEvermeetGladehapHuddaghHultailJunirilMarsemberSembiaSettled LandsSuzailUniversity of SuzailThunderstoneWay of the ManticoreWheloonWyvernwater

Organizations[edit | edit source]

Iron ThroneMerchants' GuildPurple DragonsSmiths' GuildWar Wizards
Referenced only
RambeltookZhentarim

Other[edit | edit source]

Books & Songs
The Adventures of Camber FosrickAnthropologic and Folkloric Historie of the Settled LandsArchetymbalThe Internal Structure of the BrachiopodMediations and MeditationsProceedingsRed-haired LadSeasons in the HeartlandsThought and Its ProcessesWarrior's Woe
Food & Drinks
aleapplebarleyBeef and Oysters Barnabasbeerbreadcarrotcheeseclarrycidercod piecoffeeeggElminster's Choicegriddle cakeGolden Sands OrangelettucemeadNorth BrewoatOld One Eyeorangeoysterpork piepotatoricesausageShadowdark alesmoked salmonsoupSuzaleteatomatotomato soupturnipWestgate Rubywine
Magic
continual lightspell
Referenced only
chiromancynecromancy
Items
alembicanvilarmillary sphereaxebrazierbit and bridleblackweedbootsbreastplatebullseye lanterncandlecentrifugecloakcoaldaggerhelmethooded lanternhorseshoefalse teethfiddleflint and steelglimmergrassgolden lionironleggingsmalletmosspeatpipepipeweed (West Fennet Number Three) • silver falconsoaptobacco
Others
cataractEleintgoutphilosophy
Referenced only
acidbeanchesscranial drilldiamondEleasiasFlamerulelilygemgoldKythornMirtulnosebleedraspberrysilverTarsakhweevilwooden leg

Appendix[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. A year and one day prior to the final day of the novel.
  2. Determined by counting days of events.

External Links[edit | edit source]

Smallwikipedialogo.png Murder in Cormyr article at Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Chet Williamson (July 1998). Murder in Cormyr. (TSR, Inc.), chap. 15, p. 90. ISBN 0-7869-0486-0.
  2. Eric L. Boyd, Ed Greenwood, Steven E. Schend (2000). Presenting...Seven Millennia of Realms Fiction. Wizards of the Coast. Archived from the original on 2003-06-21. Retrieved on 2015-08-12.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Chet Williamson. You Wrote What?. Retrieved on 2021-03-23.
  4. Larry Elmore. Larry Elmore · Unexpected Find. Retrieved on 2021-03-20.
  5. Gideon Kibblewhite (August 1996). "Reviews: Murder in Cormyr", Arcane #9 (PDF). Future Publishing. p. 92. Archived from the original on 2016-9-3. Retrieved on 2021-03-23.
  6. Title: Murder in Cormyr. Retrieved on 2021-03-25.
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