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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.
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.
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." 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." 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. 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]
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. An uncredited review also appeared in the March 1997 issue of the The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.
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]
- Benelaius • Bortas • Braum • Darvik • Dovo • Darrun • Fastred • Flim • Grimalkin • Grodoveth • Jasper • Jenkus • Kendra • Khlerat • Lindavar • Menchuk • Muzlim • Myrcrest • Razor • Rob • Rolf • Shortshanks • Skedmoor • Stubbins • Sunfirth • Tobald • Vangerdahast • Will • Cedric Buckenwing • Tim Butterworth • Elizabeth Clawthorn • Aunsible Durn • Bryn Goldtooth • Mrs. Barnabas Hinkel • Pygmont Kardath • Phelos Marmwitz • Barthelm Meadowbrock • Mayella Meadowbrock • Diccon Picard • Hesketh Pratt • Lukas Spoondrift
- Referenced only
- Beatrice • Bupkin • Camber Fosrick • Carcroft the Long • Fendrake • Firewand • Hurthkin • Jamie • Kastor • Kirkabey • Magda • Ned • Odum • Snaggard • Trelaphin • Linnaeus Gozzling • Argys Kral • Guirath Moondock • Azoun Obarskyr IV • Lodevin Parkar • Garnet Pennorth • Sarp Redbeard • Chelm Vandor • Elduth Yarmmaster
Creatures[edit | edit source]
- cat • dog • dwarf • ghost • gnome • halfling • horse • human • hydra • mouse • raven • thornslinger
- Referenced only
- basilisk • beholder • cryohydra • dragon • duergar • elf • feystag • bullfrog • gibbering mouther • goblin • grell • lernaean hydra • leucrotta • lich • lizardman • meazel (as "measle") • oliphant • ogre • pyrohydra • revenant • snake • troll • werejaguar • wight • will-o'-the-wisp • zombie
Locations[edit | edit source]
- Aunsible Durn's smithy • Bold Bard • Ghars library • Sheaf of Wheat • Silver Scythe • Swamp Rat
- Vast Swamp
- Referenced only
- Anauroch • Arabel • Battledale • Dragonmere • Durpar • Evermeet • Gladehap • Huddagh • Hultail • Juniril • Marsember • Sembia • Settled Lands • Suzail • University of Suzail • Thunderstone • Way of the Manticore • Wheloon • Wyvernwater
Organizations[edit | edit source]
- Iron Throne • Merchants' Guild • Purple Dragons • Smiths' Guild • War Wizards
- Referenced only
- Rambeltook • Zhentarim
Other[edit | edit source]
- Books & Songs
- The Adventures of Camber Fosrick • Anthropologic and Folkloric Historie of the Settled Lands • Archetymbal • The Internal Structure of the Brachiopod • Mediations and Meditations • Proceedings • Red-haired Lad • Seasons in the Heartlands • Thought and Its Processes • Warrior's Woe
- Food & Drinks
- ale • apple • barley • Beef and Oysters Barnabas • beer • bread • carrot • cheese • clarry • cider • cod pie • coffee • egg • Elminster's Choice • griddle cake • Golden Sands Orange • lettuce • mead • North Brew • oat • Old One Eye • orange • oyster • pork pie • potato • rice • sausage • Shadowdark ale • smoked salmon • soup • Suzale • tea • tomato • tomato soup • turnip • Westgate Ruby • wine
- continual light • spell
- Referenced only
- chiromancy • necromancy
- alembic • anvil • armillary sphere • axe • brazier • bit and bridle • blackweed • boots • breastplate • bullseye lantern • candle • centrifuge • cloak • coal • dagger • helmet • hooded lantern • false teeth • fiddle • flint and steel • glimmergrass • golden lion • iron • leggings • mallet • moss • peat • pipe • pipeweed (West Fennet Number Three) • silver falcon • soap • tobacco
- cataract • Eleint • gout • philosophy
- Referenced only
- acid • bean • chess • cranial drill • diamond • Eleasias • Flamerule • lily • gem • gold • Kythorn • Mirtul • nosebleed • raspberry • silver • Tarsakh • weevil • wooden leg
Appendix[edit | edit source]
Notes[edit | edit source]
- A year and one day prior to the final day of the novel.
- Determined by counting days of events.
External Links[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
- Chet Williamson (July 1998). Murder in Cormyr. (TSR, Inc.), chap. 15, p. 90. ISBN 0-7869-0486-0.
- Ed Greenwood; Eric L. Boyd, Steven E. Schend (2000). Presenting...Seven Millennia of Realms Fiction. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved on 2015-08-12.
- Chet Williamson. You Wrote What?. Retrieved on 2021-03-23.
- Larry Elmore. Larry Elmore · Unexpected Find. Retrieved on 2021-03-20.
- 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.
- Title: Murder in Cormyr. Retrieved on 2021-03-25.