9 Tales of Henghis Hapthorn is a collection of tales about Henghis Hapthorn, Old Earth's best freelance discriminator. There are nine of them.
First, these tales occur in Matthew Hughes' Archonate Universe, in an age just before the time of Jack Vance's Dying Earth (or a very similar setting different enough to avoid litigation), an age where magic is slowly replacing science. Secondly, this would have been great to have before reading the three Henghis Hapthorn novels.
The Immersion: An old enemy hires Henghis to find out who dumped goo on his head and left him hairless.
The Immersion was a good way to reintroduce me to Henghis' sometimes confusing world. The tales are told in the first person and he talks like the Sherlock Holmes of thousands of centuries in the future. The mystery was fairly complicated, as Hapthorn's usually are, but still satisfying and somewhat hilarious.
Will it be the best tale in the collection? It would be premature to say...
Mastermindless: All the men of Old Earth have been rendered penniless, unattractive, and dull, and it's up to a penniless, unattractive, and dull Henghis Hapthorn to unravel what happened.
This was the first Henghis Hapthorn story published and the rise of magic is present in abundance. Where did everyone's looks, money, and intelligence go? Henghis beats his suddenly less effective head against the wall until a pattern emerges. Quite entertaining.
Falberoth's Ruin: Who wants Falberoth, Old Earth's biggest crime lord dead? Pretty much everyone so Hapthorn has the unenviable tasks of narrowing it down to just one suspect.
This one has the Agatha Christie ending where the suspects are gathered. Hapthorn is quite a character and I have to say the short stories are as enjoyable as the books. It's a pity it's not easy to read one without the other.
Relics of the Thim: A known charlatan has apparently figured out a way to snatch objects from the past. But everyone knows time travel is impossible. Or is it? That's what Henghis Hapthorn intends to find out!
Henghis didn't play much of a part in solving this mystery. His relationship with his Integrator continues to degrade. I'll have to consult the introduction but I think this story found its way into one of the Hapthorn novels because I think I've read it before.
Finding Sajessarian: Adventurer/criminal Sajessarian hires Henghis Hapthorn to try to find him. Is he up to the challenge?
This one was a little strange but very amusing. I like that Hughes isn't afraid to show Hapthorn isn't as brilliant as he thinks at times.
Thwarting Jabbi Gloond: Jabbi Gloond takes over Gresh Olabian's house and Henghis resolves to get to the bottom of things.
This was another odd mystery that almost had an Agatha Christie ending. I'm not sure if its in the appropriate chronological place in the collection, though.
The Gist Hunter: While adjusting to the profound changes in his integrator, Henghis attempts to clear the name of Turgut Therobar.
Turns out Turgut was kind of a bastard. I found the parts about the integrator adusting to life as something resembling a lemur rather than a machine way more interesting.
Sweet Trap: Henghis Hapthorn is hired to find a man who has fled Old Earth for parts unknown. Fortunately, aiding him are his Integrator, now a lemur-like grinnet, and Osk Rievor, the intuitive part of his brain that has taken on both a personality and a name.
This one also feels like something I've read before, especially since I don't forget names like Tabanooch.
Fullbrim's Finding: Fullbrim goes missing and Hapthorn is at it again!
Hapthorn is in fine form in this, what I believe is his last outing to date.
Overall Thoughts: While the stories probably weren't meant to be read consecutively, I really liked this collection. As I said earlier, it would have been great to have access to all the short stories while I was reading the three Henghis Hapthorn novels.
Hughes' writing evokes Doyle, Vance, and P.G. Wodehouse in equal measure. The mysterious, while not solveable by the reader, are very entertaining.
The later stories are easier to fit into the chronology of the series. For instance, Osk Rievor has become a second person by this point, which I believe happened at the end of the second book.
I don't know how accessible they'd be to someone with no previous background with Hughes' Archonate setting, however. Still, free on the Kindle, they were well worth my time. 3.5 out of 5 stars.