September 04, 2005

Over My Dead Body,
In The Best Families,
Trouble in Triplicate,
Three Doors to Death,
Homicide Trinity, by Rex Stout

We have here six volumes of mastermind and sleuth Nero Wolfe, containing twelve tales, and there isn't a bad nut in the set.

I'm not going to wax rhapsodic about these books, although I justifiably could. And I'm not going to spend paragraphs telling you how Nero Wolfe is an interesting character, with his bed temper, his rudeness, his gourmet appetite, and his orchids, but that Archie Goodwin, now, Goodwin the wise-cracking sidekick, is the real hero of the books, and a completely sufficient reason for reading them. Even though it's true.

Suffice it to say that if you enjoy mystery novels, and you've not read any of Stout's books, you've got better things to be doing than reading this review when Amazon's just a click away.

And now, a few notes about these particular books.

Fer-de-Lance is the first of the Nero Wolfe novels; I like it, but it isn't the best of the series. The maguffin's a little over-complicated, and Wolfe isn't quite himself--at maybe 99%, he's more himself than most long-running characters are at first appearance, but not quite himself.

I fear I read In The Best Families out of order (I was just picking the books off of the shelf in whatever order I found them, which wasn't chronological). There are three Nero Wolfe novels for which the sequence matters; this is the third, in which Wolfe has his final showdown with that mastermind of crime Arnold Zeck.

Over My Dead Body's an interesting little tale, involving fencing, murder, Balkan politics, and, most remarkably, Wolfe's long-lost daughter from Montenegro. As Wolfe dislikes women intensely, much comedy ensues. We learn quite a lot about Wolfe in this one, some of it good.

The remaining three books are all triples; apparently Stout wrote three shorter Wolfe tales every year, which (IIRC) were always published in a single volume just before Christmas. I won't say too much about these except that in each tale you get the distilled essence of Wolfe and Goodwin, and that's no bad thing.

Posted by Will Duquette at September 4, 2005 06:48 AM