Thursday, August 21, 2014


It has been a long time.

Like most of us, I suppose, years ago I read and loved Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe books. When Amazon offered Murder by the Book (1951) on a daily Kindle special, I took them up on the offer.

A grieving father asks Wolfe to investigate what he thinks is the murder of his daughter. She worked for a book publisher. The murder appears to have been a hit-and-run automobile accident.

Wolfe might not have accepted the case except that weeks ago Inspector Cramer brought him a list of names found on a slip of paper in another murdered man’s book. The names were aliases. One of those names was the pen name on a manuscript the man’s daughter had rejected. That rejected author took the daughter to dinner the night she died.

This leads Wolfe and Archie to investigate three murders connected to the manuscript. They keep hitting dead ends until they pull a scam to shake up things, and that breaks the case open.

This is Archie’s story. Archie does most of the complicated legwork. He has some of the ideas. He earns at least three of Wolfe’s “satisfactories” and one “very satisfactory.”

Archie’s work is loathsome. He interviews ten (mostly younger) women and dates a couple of them.

These books are so deftly written. If there are facts the reader shouldn’t know, Saul Panzer, not the narrator Archie Goodwin, investigates them. Wolfe (and Stout) keep the facts from Archie.

Rex Stout’s plotting is intricate, and his characters (especially the brilliant, eccentric Nero Wolfe and the woman-loving Archie) make the rest work.

It was good to get back to reading about Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin.


BVLawson said...

It's been a long time since I settled down with a Rex Stout book, Joe, and your review makes me want to revisit these favorites from my younger days. Definitely some of the most memorable characters in crime fiction.

Joe Barone said...

I found this one as good as they always were. Rex Stout never disappointed me.

George said...

I've read the entire Wolfe Saga and I think the best books in the series are those from the 1950s. My favorite Rex Stout is THE GOLDEN SPIDERS.

Bill Crider said...

I agree, Joe. He's one of my favorites.

Joe Barone said...

Geroge, I also read the entire Wolfe saga back in the day. I don't remember titles like you do. After Heavens knows how many years, I still have visions of Wolfe leaving the country to go to Montenegro to solve a crime. For some reason that one has stuck in my head all these years.

Yvette said...

Joe, I love Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe books. He's one of my very favorite authors. In fact, I reread the Wolfe books ALL the time. Luckily I have a nice paperback collection of most of them.

MURDER BY THE BOOK is one of my favorites so thanks for reviewing it. I most especially loved when Archie had to fly out to L.A. and meets up with the woman who might have made him a great wife. But alas, she's already taken. :)

Have you read PLOT IT YOURSELF or
MIGHT AS WELL BE DEAD or THE DOORBELL RANG? Three other Nero Wolfe favorites of mine.

Joe Barone said...

Yvette, I've read all of those, but it has been a long time. I, like you, am a great fan of Nero. I need to reread more of the books.

Kelly Robinson said...

I nabbed some Stout titles as part of the recent Kindle deal (it might still be going on), so looks like I'll be revisiting, too.

Joe Barone said...

Great! I see these special Kindle deals in the same way I used to see paperback books when I was younger. I would roam the bookstore and drugstore paperback racks for cheaper reprints of books that had been expensive in hardback. Back then, they usually came out about a year later.