Monday, January 11, 2016

Five Favorite Wolfes

In listing out my favorites Nero Wolfe’s, I found a few themes that occurred in more than one book: strong, unique women. politics and Orrie. Who knew?

5. Plot it Yourself – someone is accusing playwrights and novelists of plagiarism by having copies of books typed before the best-selling books are published. How is the criminal doing this? Stout has such obvious fun with the subject matter that it’s contagious. The plagiarists start ending up dead after Wolfe gets involved and he has to solve the case. 

4. The Silent Speaker – Cheney Boone of the BPR is bludgeoned to death right before an industrial association’s meeting. Of course the association is accused of murder (indirectly) assuming that one of its members committed the actual deed. Upon calling one of his famous meetings of all involved, Phoebe Gunther doesn’t show, and Phoebe turns out to put Archie through his paces. Of course, being a match for our intrepid bachelor is a death sentence and Gunther becomes the next victim. Of all the Wolfe victims, I think I’m sorriest to see her go. She was such a good balance for Archie.

3. Death of a Doxy – Orrie’s in trouble and Wolfe has to bail him out. He’s been seeing a “doxy,” a Scrabble-player’s delight that means “mistress” as well as a supposed fiancĂ©e. Of course, the doxy had another man paying her bills. Wolfe and Goodwin have to determine who was paying the bills and likely killed her for stepping out on him. Julie Jaquette makes this book with her attitude and mannerisms.

2. In the Best Families – the last of the Zeck books and by far my favorite. I always like Wolfe encountering an environment outside of his own, and this book has that in spades. Wolfe has “disappeared” after being hounded by Zeck. Archie takes a case, which Wolfe solves quickly and efficiently after the Zeck mess is completed.

1. The Doorbell Rang – without a doubt my favorite of the series. The book has all the things I love about this series: witty banter, a worthy opponent, politics and a mention of books of interest. Wolfe goes up against the FBI and J. Edgar after he takes a case for a woman being pestered by FBI surveillance. A rather prescient look at tactics used throughout the 1960s against “enemies.”

Monday, January 4, 2016

I can't read 55

There has to be some consolation for being 55, or at least I told myself that.

To treat myself, I broke out the one Nero Wolfe I’d never read, The Final Deduction and read it for my birthday.

When I was young, I read voraciously. I would pick up 10-15 books a week to read, and my favorite genre was (of course) mystery. I’d nearly polished off all of the Wolfes, when I realized that there was one that I hadn’t read. I debated finishing the series off, but something held me back, and like a fine wine, I decided to let it sit for a while before I read it.

Forty years after that, I decided it was time. I have to say that it wasn’t the best in the series (I’ll post my top 5 Wolfes in a week or two), but it was a great one to hold back. It’s one of the few cases that involves a kidnapping, and Wolfe makes some fascinating deductions up front that help the reader going forward.

Of course, there has to be at least one or two words that I have to look up and “subdolous” was the word here. My spellcheck doesn’t even recognize it, that’s how unfamiliar it is to the modern reader.
Without giving away the plot too much, Stout used a certain device that let me know who the murderer was before the final showdown with the killer. I think it would have been a stronger plot without that particular ploy, which immediately telegraphed the killer to me. However, it was a pleasure to read, and made the sting of aging a little less this year.

I’ll have to come up with a new to me series for 60, since I’ve finished off most of the series that could probably be recommended to me.