Letterboxes and postboxes in various colours and available personalised in the UK Home Contact About Us

Slightly Better Books

Author Focus:

Rex Stout

Classic American Murder Mystery Crime Fiction and Humour

  Literary gifts for book lovers, gorgeous gift ideas for readers, writers and literature fans
AbeBooks.co.uk
Rex Stout, b. 1886, d. 1975

 

****Hyperlinked titles will take you to our copy on sale or prebuilt searches of copies on sale****

About the Author

Useful Links:
Books on Ebay-see our specially prebuilt search below
Books on Amazon-see our special banner of titles below

Titles to Look Out For:
[In order of publication. Date signifies earliest edition. Later editions covered by each listing]

Nero Wolfe (and Archie Goodwin); also often Inspector Cramer (NY Police); Purley Stebbins (NY Police)
1934. Fer-De-Lance, a.k.a. Meet Nero Wolfe
1935. The League of Frightened Men
1936. The Rubber Band (To Kill Again)
1937. The Red Box, a.k.a. Case of the Red Box
1938. Too Many Cooks
1939. Some Buried Caesar, a.k.a The Red Bull
1939. Over My Dead Body
1940. Where There's A Will
1942. Black Orchids
1944. Not Quite Dead Enough
1946. The Silent Speaker
1947. Too Many Women
1948. And Be A Villain , a.k.a. More Deaths Than One
(introduces the Gangster Arnold Zeck)
1949. The Second Confession
(Further wrangles with NY gangster Zeck)
1949. Trouble in Triplicate
1950. Curtains For Three
1950. (Even) in the Best Families
1950. Three Doors To Death
1951. Murder By The Book
1952. Prisoner's Base (a.k.a. Out She Goes) [edition notes & storyline]
1952. Triple Jeopardy
1953. The Golden Spiders
1954. The Black Mountain
1954. Three Men Out
1954 (and later eds.) Before Midnight
1956. Might As Well Be Dead
1956. Three Witnesses (The Next Witness; When a Man Murders; Die Like a Dog)
1957. If Death Ever Slept
1957. Three For The Chair
1958. And Four To Go, a.k.a. Crime And Again
1958. Champagne For One
1959. Plot It Yourself, a.k.a. Murder In Style
1960. Too Many Clients
1960. Three At Wolfe's Door
1961. The Final Deduction
1962. Gambit
1962. Homicide Trinity
1963. The Mother Hunt
1964. A Right To Die
1964. Trio for Blunt Instruments
1965. The Doorbell Rang
1966. Death of a Doxy
1968. The Father Hunt
1969. Death of A Dude
1973. Please Pass The Guilt
1975. A Family Affair
1985. Death Times Three

Tecumseh Fox [top]
1939. Double For Death
1940. Bad For Business
1941. The Broken Vase

Mysteries [top]
1937. The Hand in The Glove, a.k.a. Crime On Her Hands. Main character is Dol Bonner, a female detective. Inspector Cramer additionally appears in this murder mystery.
1939. Mountain Cat a.k.a. The Mountain Cat Murders
1941. Alphabet Hicks a.k.a. The Sound of Murder
1939. Red Threads

Novels [top]
1912. Excess Baggage (published as a short story in 'Short Stories Magazine')
1913. Her Forbidden Knight
1914. Under the Andes
1914. A Prize for Princes
1916. The Great Legend
1929. How Like A God
1930. Seed on the Wind
1931. Golden Remedy
1933. Forest Fire
1934. The President Vanishes
1935. O Careless Love!
1938. Mr. Cinderella
1997. Treasures of the Medici
1999. Eeeny Meeny Murder Mo
2000. An Officer And A Lady

Rex Stout Collections [top]
1955. Full House.
Includes: The League of Frightened Men; And Be a Villain; Curtains for Three (3 novellas: The Gun with Wings; Bullet for One; Disguise for Murder
1958. All Aces
Includes: Some Buried Caesar; Too Many Women; Trouble in Triplicate
1961. Five of A Kind
Includes two full novels: The Rubber Band; and In the Best Families. Plus three novelettes published as Three Doors to Death: Door to Death, Man Alive, and Omit Flowers
1965. Royal Flush
Fer-de-Lance and Murder by the Book are full-length novels. Three Witnesses are The Next Witness, When a Man Murders.., and Die Like a Dog.

1969. King's Full of Aces.
Includes: Too Many Cooks; Plot It Yourself; and Triple Jeopardy (Home to Roost; The Cop-Killer; and The Squirt and The Monkey)
1971. Three Aces.
Includes Too Many Clients; Might As Well Be Dead; and The Final Deduction
1977. Corsage
1977 Justice Ends At Home
1998 Target Practice

Anthologies in which Rex Stout stories appear [top]
1959. Best Detective Stories edited by Edmund Crispin. Contains 'A Dog in the Daytime'
1977. A Window for Death, appears in Ellery Queen's Masters of Mystery.

Anthologies (edited by Rex Stout) [top]
1942. The Illustrious Dunderheads

Non Fiction Works [top]
1973. The Nero Wolfe Cookbook

About the Author [top]
Rex Stout was born in Noblesville, Indiana in 1886 of Quaker parents who moved to a Kansas farm in Wakarusa in 1887. He was the sixth of nine children born to John and Lucetta Todhunter Stout and in his life he worked as many things among them a soda-water dispenser, a sailor, a bookkeeper, a cigar clerk, a strawberry picker, and (for ten years) promoter and executive manager of a business corporation. Educated in a country school, by the age of nine, he was recognised throughout the state of Kansas as a prodigy in arithmetic. Rex Stout briefly attended the University of Kansas, but left to enlist in the navy and spent the next two years as a warrant officer on board President Roosevelt's yacht. When he left the navy in 1908, Rex Stout began to write free-lance articles and worked as a sight-seeing guide and an itinerant bookkeeper.

He published his first story in October 1912 with the story "Excess Baggage" in 'Short Stories Magazine', for which he received a cheque for $25-00. Encouraged by this success, he then wrote a further six stories and submitted them to as many magazines. Incredibly for such a new writer, none was rejected. He then set to work in earnest on his writing career, figuring that he had the necessary to be successful. Over the next four years, he wrote about 24 further short stories and four novels, and was published in Lippincott's, Smiths Magazine, Black Cat, Short Stories, and Smart Set, not forgetting All-Story, which purchased most of his output, notably:
Her Forbidden Knight
A Prize for Princes
The Great Legend
Under the Andes (A "lost race" novel & his only dabble with the fantasy genre)

He became a literary sensation when his first Nero Wolfe story 'Fer-de-Lance' was published in serial installments in 'The Saturday Evening Post'.

Rex Stout is also well-known for devising and implementing a school banking system that was installed in four hundred cities and towns throughout the country. In 1927, he retired from the world of finance and, with the proceeds from his banking scheme, left for Paris to write serious fiction. He wrote three novels that received favourable reviews, after which he tried his hand at detective fiction, with Fer-de-Lance appearing in 1934.

It was said that on 18 October every year Rex Stout laid down his rake and hoe and strode indoors to write another novel for his increasing army of fans; conversely in April he used to return to the garden, forsaking literature for lilies, and crime for crocuses. This passion for flowers he shares with his detective, Nero Wolfe. But there the likeness ends, for Rex Stout is thin and incorrigibly active, whilst Nero Wolfe is, well, of larger build.

Editions & Storylines Notes:

Please note that if you are collecting Rex Stout 1st Editions, there are book club editions which are often advertised as 1st Editions and which are not. One way to identify a genuine first edition is that the dustjacket won't say that it's a book club edition (if you are lucky enough to get a dj); also the book MUST have a list of other Rex Stout books in the front for it to be a 1st Edition. If it doesn't it's a book club edition

Stout, Rex. 'Her Forbidden Knight', published in 1997 by Carroll & Graf, NY, 265pp, hardback, ISBN 0739410873. Very good condition, nice clean copy. Has ink stamp behind rear flap. Nice copy. Price: £6.75, not including p&p, which is Amazon's standard charge (currently £2.75 for UK buyers, more for overseas customers)
1997, Caroll & Graf
In stock, click to buy for £6.75 (not including p&p)

Alternative online retailers to try:
Click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Abebooks

Or click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Alibris

Or click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Ebay

  • Her Forbidden Knight [top]
    Published in 1997 in the United States by Carroll & Graf Publishers in hardback with dustjacket, 265pp, ISBN 0739410873. Includes a Stout short story "Out of the Line", in book form for the first time. Cover design by Tony Greco & Associates
    Published in 1998 in Great Britain by Severn House

Storyline: This detective novel, Rex Stout's first foray into this genre follows the fortunes of the pretty, young Lila Williams, a telegraph operator at New York's swank Lamartine Hotel, as she becomes unwittingly enmeshed in the operations of a counterfeiting ring. For nothing here is quite what it seems, not even the safety Lila thinks she finds in the arms of the man who quickens the beat of her heart

Stout, Rex. 'Under the Andes' published in 1986 by Penzler Books (Warner Communications in paperback, 286pp, ISBN 0445405074. Good condition with some very light wear to cover. Price: £12.00, not including p&p, which is Amazon's standard charge (currently £2.75 for UK buyers, more for overseas customers)
1986, Penzler Books
In stock, click to buy for £12.00 (not including p&p)

Alternative online retailers to try:
Click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Abebooks

Or click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Alibris

Or click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Ebay

  • Under The Andes [top]
    First published in the US in February 1914 in 'The All Story Magazine'
    Originally published in 1984 in hardback (for the first time) by Penzler Books, 286pp, ISBN 0892961198
    Reprinted in November 1986 by Penzler Books in paperback, 286pp, 0445405074
    Penzler Books is a division of Mysterious Press (Warner Communications)

Story: The Cave of the Devil. Desirée Le Mire ran into the cave, anxious to explore, tempted by the legends of Inca Gold. Harry Lamar and his brother, Paul, had no choice but to follow. After all, they could not let the beautiful dancer enter the black depths alone. Desirée would not be alone for long, though. She and the Lamar brothers were not the only people in the cave. Others lived there, protecting the gold of their ancestors; others, now misshapen after generations of living underground. They were all that was left of a once proud tribe, and they would defend their realm as their forefathers had tried to do when the Spaniards came with their weapons and their horses. That was why no one who entered the cave ever emerged into daylight. That was why the natives and guides in the Andes stayed away. But no-one who had entered was as beautiful as Desirée...or as determined as the Lamars

 

Mysterious Press, 1985, hbk

 

Mysterious Press, 1986, pbk


1999, Severn House Publishers
In stock, click to buy!

Alternative online retailers to try:
Click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Abebooks

Or click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Alibris

Or click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Ebay

  • A Prize for Princes [top]
    Originally serialised in 'The All Story Magazine'
    First published in 1999 in the U.S.A by Severn House Publishers, representing the first time this story appeared in book form. Published price: $26.00
    First published in 1999 in Great Britain by Severn House Publishers. Published price: £17.99
    Jacket illustration by Derek Colligan

Story: Beautiful and deadly, Aline Solini is a study in pure evil. First encountered in a Balkan convent about to be sacked by marauding Turkish forces, she is rescued by richard Stetton, a wealthy American who becomes totally captivated by her. His wealth enables her to escape from Vasili Petrovich, the husband she tried to poison, and enter the highest social circles in Eastern Europe. There she meets other men of power and influence, and in continuing to ply her sensual talents, she is once more embroiled in deadly intrigue and murder... . Set in 1914, this book concerns Balkan intrigue and is the first Rex Stout novel to broach three subjects associated wih Nero Wolfe: the country where he spent his youth, how his marriage ended, and his feelings for women in general. Nero Wolfe was from the Balkan area, growing up in Lovchen, Montenegro, and he was named after Monte Nero, located there.

Referred to as "that most dangerous thing in the world-a woman with the face of an angel and hte heart of a demon," Aline Solini further becomes the example in the extreme of Nero Wolfe's thoughts on women:"the vocations for which they are best adapted [are] chincanery, sophistication, self-advertisement, cajolery, mystification, and incubation...astonishing and successful animals."

 

2007, Carroll & Graf, pbk

2002, Wildside Press, hbk


1931, Morley & Mitchell Kennerley
In stock, click to buy for £325.00 (not including p&p. Price reflects scarcity)

Alternative online retailers to try:
Click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Abebooks

Or click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Alibris

Or click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Ebay

  • Seed on the Wind [top]
    First published in 1930 in the US by Vanguad Press, New York, 1930 with decorative cloth and dustjacket. First Edition. 8vo - over 7¾" - 9¾" tall. First Printing; Townsend A6; 310 pages.
    First published in 1931 in Great Britain by Morley & Mitchell Kennerley Jr, London, 22 Essex Street, London WC2, orange cloth hardcover, gold embossed titling on spine & front, 368pp

Main characters:
Lewis Kane
Lora Winter

Storyline: Coming soon...

Stout, Rex. 'Fer-de-Lance', published by Bantam books in paperback, 294pp, ISBN 0553278193. Sorry, sold out, but click image to access prebuilt search for this title on Amazon
1992, Bantam, pbk
Sorry, sold out, but click image to access prebuilt search for this title on Amazon

Alternative online retailers to try:
Click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Abebooks

Or click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Alibris

Or click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Ebay

  • Fer-de-Lance [top]
    First published in 1934 in the US by Farrar and Reinhart in hardcover
    Also appears in the 1965 omnibus: Royal Flush
    Jove/HBJ edition published in 1979
    Bantam Edition published in 1983
    Bantam Crime Line Edition published in 1992
    Readers Digest Edition published in 1995

Story: It all began when a dark-eyed Italian miss tried to charm Wolfe into finding her missing brother, only to discover it took more than charm to trigger Wolfe's genius-at least a thousand dollars more. But that was a pittance compared to what was to come. When the brother turned up dead, the case took on another, much wealthier corpse-a present from a monstrously ingenious murderer. Solution of the crime would fatten Wolfe's bank account, put his detective prowess to the ultimate test and place the entirety of his enormous person in the most dangerous position of his career. This happens when someone makes a surprise present of a fer-de-lance to Nero Wolfe (as any herpetologist will tell you, the fer-de-lance is among the most dreaded snakes known to man). But this incident means that Wolfe and Archie Goodwin know they're getting dreadfully close to solving the devilishly clever murders of the Italian immigrant and the college president.

Stout, Rex. 'The Red Box', published in 1992 in Great Britain by Scribners in hardback with dustjacket (Macdonald & Co.), 189pp, ISBN 0356201090. Sorry, sold out, but click image to access prebuilt search for this title on Amazon
1992, Scribners, hbk
Sorry, sold out, but click image to access prebuilt search for this title on Amazon

Alternative online retailers to try:
Click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Abebooks

Or click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Alibris

Or click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Ebay

Alibris UK: books, movies & music

AbeBooks.co.uk

Find this book at Biblio.com!

 

  • The Red Box [top]
    First published in 1936 in the United States in hardback with dustjacket
    Reprinted in 1992 in Great Britain by Scribners, a division of Macdonald & Co, in hardback with dustjacket, 189pp, ISBN 0356201090. Original UK retail price of this edition: £13.99

Storyline: Having worked for Nero Wolfe for nine years, there are a few things about him that Archie Goodwin is no longer sceptical about: that he is the best private detective north of the South Pole; that outdoor air is apt to clog his lungs; and that it short circuits his nervous system to be jiggled and jostled. It is therefore no surprise to Archie that when the bumptious Mr. Frost pesters Wolfe to travel to the fashion house where a model has been murdered, Wolfe will have none of it. It is on because the fat detective is passionate about orchids that he is finally persuaded, and then it is only for ten minutes. So, it is more than unfortunate that this visit leads directly to another murder -player out in Wolfe's own home.

Wolfe finds himself with three murders to solve and a growing list of the most unlikely clients. By this point, it is clear to all that a mysterious red box holds all the clues to the murders. The trouble is...no-one has seen it...

Characters:
Nero Wolfe
Archie Goodwin
Fritz Brenner, chef of the Wolfe household
Saul Panzer
Johnny Keems
Orrie Cather
Fred Durkin
Doctor Vollmer
Henry H. Barber, Wolfe's lawyer
Inspector Cramer
Purley Stebbins of the homicide squad
Lieutenant Rowcliff
Deputy Commissioner Alloway
Mathias R. Frisbie, Assistant District Attorney
Sturgis, a cop
Mr. Llewellyn Frost
Dudley Frost, Llewellyn's father
The late Molly Lauck, killed by poison in the offices of Boyden McNair
Winold Glueckner
Cuyler Ditson
T. M. O' Gorman
Raymond Plehn
Chas E. Shanks
Christopher Bamford
Del Pritchard, rival investigator/PI
Sandy Mollew, rival investigator/PI
Alec Martin, owner of 40,000 plants at Rutherford
Mr. Boyden McNair
Calida Frost née Buchan, (or as Archie calls her 'Mrs Edwin Frost'), a.k.a Aunt Callie (Helen's mother), Llewellyn's aunt
Miss Helen Frost, née Glenna McNair, cousin to Llewellyn Frost and old friends with Boyden McNair; works for Boyden McNair
Miss Thelma Mitchell; model, working for Boyden McNair
Mrs Lamont; works for Boyden McNair
Perren Gebert - dropped in when Boyden was having his show
Captain Dixon
Mrs Ballin
Miss Beth Claymore
Mr. Benjamin Leach, attorney to Llewellyn Frost
Collinger (lawyer) dealing with McNair's will and estate

Stout, Rex. 'Too Many Cooks', published in 1972 by Fontana Books, 192pp, no ISBN. Sorry, sold out, but click image to access prebuilt search for this title on Amazon
1972, Fontana, pbk
Sorry, sold out, but click image to access prebuilt search for this title on Amazon

Alternative online retailers to try:
Click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Abebooks

Or click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Alibris

Or click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Ebay

Alibris UK: books, movies & music

AbeBooks.co.uk

Find this book at Biblio.com!

 

 

 

  • Too Many Cooks [top]
    First published in 1938 in Great Britain by William Collins & Son in hardback with dustjacket
    First published in 1972 in Fontana Books in paperback, 192pp. No. 2923

Storyline/Synopsis: Recipe for murder... Take 15 master cooks...place them in a hotel in West Virginia called Kanawha Spa...sprinkle with professional jealousy and stir till trouble thickens. Twenty-four hours later: serve one dead body, well chilled...add a purple-eyed dish called Constanza, one overheated Corsican, one hard-boiled widow and a Chinese girl in a pickle. Give the ingredients to Nero Wolfe and allow them to come to the boil.... Wolfe will present the solution on a plate!

Main characters:
Nero Wolfe
Archie Goodwin
Saul Panzer
Barry Tolman, prosecuting attorney of Marlin County, West Virginia
Sam Pettigrew, Sheriff of Marlin County
Constanza Berin (daughter of one of the 15 master chefs, Mr. Jerome Berin)
Mr. Raymond Liggett, manager and part owner of the Hotel Churchill, NY
Alberto Malfi, chef in the Hotel Churchill
Clay Ashley, manager of Canawha Spa

Gershom Odell, house detective of Canawha Spa
Dina Laszio, wife of Philip
Lio Coyne, wife of Lawrence
Kitchen Staff and Chefs of Canawha Spa interviewed by Wolfe (14 in total):
Paul Whipple
Mr. Crabtree ('crabby')
Mr. Moulton
Mr Hyacinth Brown
Mr. Grant (cook)
Mr. Daggett
The 15 Master Chefs:
Mr. Jerome Berin, chef of the Corridona, San Remo
Leon Blanc, the Willow Club, Boston
Ramsey Keith, Hotel Hastings, Calcutta
Phillip Laszio, Hotel Churchill, NY
Domenico Rossi, Empire Café in London
Pierre Mondor, Mondor's, Paris
Marko Vukcic, Rusterman's, NY (who invited Archie as guest)
Sergei Vallenko, Chateau Montcalm, Quebec
Lawrence Coyne, The Rattan, San Francisco
Louis Servan, Kanawha Spa, West Virginia (who invited Nero as guest)
Ferid Khaldah, Café de l'Europe, Istanbul
Henri Tassone, Shepheard's Hotel, Cairo
Armand Fleury, Fleury's Paris (deceased)
Pasquale Donofrio, the Eldorado, Madrid (deceased)
Jacques Baleine, Emerald Hotel, Dublin (deceased)

Verdict: 7/10. Not the best Nero Wolfe story, but still very good. Unusual in that Nero Wolfe is firstly outside of his brownstone house in New York, and secondly he's travelling on a train. His utter dislike of travelling on trains provides some of the humour of the book. Nero of course has been lured out of his refuge by the sheer weight of top chefs coming together in one place - irresistible! Witness the determination with which Wolfe goes after Berin's saucisse minuit recipe for his own benefit! He has been invited as a guest by Marko Vukcic (master chef) and gives a speech 'Contributions Américaines a la Haute Cuisine' (American Contributions to Haute Cuisine)

There are some uncomfortable passages where Wolfe is talking to the black workers in the hotel complex and he tries to address racial questions and issues. Even bearing in mind that this was originally written in the 1930s, doesn't make this particular bit any easier to read.
Favourite part of the story: Archie Goodwin tells Constanza Berin that he's married and starts reeling off names of his imaginary children. Nero picks up on this lie later on in the story...

Stout, Rex. 'Some Buried Caesar', published in 1971 by Fontana Books, paperback, 192pp. Condition: Good++ with mild tanning to internal pages. Cover in excellent condition for age. Price:£0.65, not including p&p, which is Amazon's standard charge (currently £2.75 for UK buyers, more for overseas customers)
1971, Fontana
In stock, click image to access Amazon listing for this book

Alternative online retailers to try:
Click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Abebooks

Or click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Alibris

Or click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Ebay

Alibris UK: books, movies & music

AbeBooks.co.uk

Find this book at Biblio.com!

 

 

 

Story: A Classic Case... When someone renders Caesar rather more than his due, and Nero Wolfe is called in, there are all the ingredients for an imperial mystery. But Rome wasn't built in a day, as even the emperor of detection discovers, caught up in the rivalry between the Osgoods and the Pratts. When a second body is discovered and Wolfe confesses to having no evidence against the perpetrator, Archie Goodwin is afraid his master's powers have suffered a decline and fall. But Nero shows himself to be a true Colossus

Don't be put off by the farming element in this book -it trully is one of the best Rex Stout mysteries with a lot of humour in it

Main Characters:
Nero Wolfe
Archie Goodwin
Hickory Caesar Grindon (A national champion bull and father to 51 AR daughters-AR stands for Advanced Register, which cows can only get on once they produce so much milk and butter fat)
Thomas Pratt, farm/ranch owner and owner of the Pratteria restaurant chain
Bert, household servant to Thomas Pratt
Caroline Pratt, niece of Thomas Pratt
Jimmy Pratt, nephew to Thomas Pratt
Lily Rowan, who calls Archie "Escamillo"
Lew Bennett, secretary of the National Guernsey (as in cow) league
Daniel Cullen, owner of one of the finest Guernsey herds in the US
Monte McMillan, previous owner of the prize-winning bull, Caesar
Sidney Darth, chairman of the North Atlantic Exposition Board
Frederick Osgood, father to Nancy and Clyde
Marcia Osgood, wife to Frederick Osgood. Thomas Pratt and Frederick Osgood were love rivals for Marcia
Nancy Osgood
Clyde Osgood
Carter Waddell, district attorney
Mr Bronson, Clyde's friend
Doc Sackett- certifies the death of the first human victim
Charles E. Shanks - Wolfe's orchid rival

Verdict: 9/10. Excellent fun this story and the relationship between Archie and Lily Rowan is fun and interesting, but DON'T read this without reading some other Nero Wolfe mysteries first because you just won't get the most out of the Nero-Archie relationship, nor what Archie's character is like.

The Archie-Lily relationship works really well because Lily's quite obviously "stuck" on Archie despite her reputation for leading men on and then dropping them for something more interesting. Archie is also quite obviously keen on Lily, but keeps giving her the brush off and treats her mean (not too mean, but still mean - at one point he addresses her as '"Hello Plaything'"), which perversely serves to keep her interested in him and she seems to be quite willing to accommodate his plans at the expense of her own.

Look out for the bit where Archie is in jail and Lily out of the blue comes to visit him. He gets her to phone Nero Wolfe late at night to wake him up, pretending to be Archie's mother who has flown out to Virginia to come and find her son who she hears has been imprisoned. Lily is more than happy to do this... Nero darkly tells Archie later that they will have to discuss that episode when they get back to New York...

There's a funny scene at the start of the book - Nero doesn't like travelling outside of his home anyway, let alone in a car and Archie crashes the car on the way to an exhibition at which Nero hopes to win a prize for his orchids. They decide to get help by making their way across a field to a house they'd just passed (Thomas Pratt's house), when Nero realises there's a bull homing in on them. Archie manages to get out of the field, but Nero is left "standing motionless on the rounded peak of the boulder". Nero gets angry at being stuck in the field and thinks Archie's deliberately not helping him to get out - it's easy for Nero to suspect this since Archie's normal course of behaviour would be to get a touch of fun out of his boss's misfortune. It's the straight man, funny man routine at its best

Stout, Rex. 'Over My Dead Body', published in 1994 by Bantam Books in paperback, 257pp, ISBN 0553231162. Condition: Good with some mild creasing & handling wear to the cover. Price: £2.85, not including p&p, which is Amazon's standard charge (currently £2.75 for UK buyers, more for overseas customers
1994, Bantam, pbk
In stock, click to buy for £2.85, not including p&p

Alternative online retailers to try:
Click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Abebooks

Or click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Alibris

Or click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Ebay

Alibris UK: books, movies & music

AbeBooks.co.uk

Find this book at Biblio.com!

 

 

  • Over My Dead Body [top]
    First published in 1940 in the United States by Farrar and Rinehart
    Published in 1994 in the United States and Canada by Bantam Books, 260pp, ISBN 0553231162

Story: When a Balkan beauty gets in trouble (in New York) over some missing diamonds belonging to a student at the Miltan's fencing school she teaches at, whom else can she turn to but the world-famous Nero Wolfe? Especially since she claims to be Wolfe's long-lost daughter! The stakes are suddenly raised when a student at this woman's fencing school ends up dead after a pointed lesson. As Wolfe and his sidekick, Archie, thrust and parry into a tangle of documents, identities, and international intrigue, another student's body turns up, expertly skewered through the heart. Is Wolfe's long-lost daughter the black sheep of the family - a hot-blooded mistress of murder?

Main characters:
Nero Wolfe
Archie Goodwin
Fritz Brenner
Saul Panzer
Theodore Horstmann (looks after Nero's orchids)
Johnny Keems
Orrie Cather
Fred Durkin
Inspector Cramer
Sergeant Purley Stebbins

Then in order of appearance:
Carla Lovchen (turns up at Nero's house right at the start of the story). Also to be found in The Black Mountain
Neya Tormic (Carla's friend. Carla and Neya are frequently referred to as 'Montenegrin females')
Nikola Miltan, owner of the fencing studio on 48th Street
Jeanne Miltan, wife of Nikola
Mr. Stahl
Donald Barrett
John P. Barrett (father of Donald - both Barretts belong to the banking firm of Barrett & De Russy)
Nat Driscoll
Mr. Hitchcock (of London!) Also to be found in The Black Mountain
Percy Ludlow
Belinda Reade
Ted Gill (dancing client. Sees Neya in the corridor with Belinda Reade at the time she's accused of stealing Nat Driscoll's diamonds and at the time she's supposed to be teaching fencing to Percy Ludlow)
Madame Zorka - famous couturiere
Mr. Thompson, lawyer to Mr. Driscoll
Rudolph Faber

Verdict: 7/10
Not a bad story and heavily imbued with tones of the Second World War - secret agents (German & UK) competing for the loyalties of other nations and using any means necessary to secure their objectives, but not exactly managing to stay alive at the same time!

You begin to realise that characters in the story are up to much shadier dealings than first suspected and the book makes a big play of the fact that Neya and Carla are from the Balkans and therefore cannot be trusted. At one point, Cramer in all of this remarks that he's just a New York cop, which stops you with a jolt and makes you realise that the murders are different in this Rex Stout mystery. You suddenly realise that Cramer is feeling overawed by the greater circumstances - almost saying that he's at their mercy. These are murders generated by international intrigue; and the reasons for them and the ramifications of them lie beyond US borders and far beyond the law-enforcement powers of a New York cop trying to do his job.

An alleged daughter of Wolfe provides comic fodder, which Rex Stout could probably have made much more of. Archie's up to his normal tricks of winding Wolfe up; and he straight away plays the 'how about I marry your daughter [Neya]?' card with predictable irritation from Wolfe:

'"When I marry her I guess it will be unavoidable for me to call you Dad."
"Archie, I swear by all-"'
"And I would be your heir in case you die. I would be the beneficiary on your life insurance. We could play in father and son golf tournaments. Later on you could hold the baby. Babies..."'
It's lucky for Archie that the doorbell rings and interrupts his flow! Hvala Bogu - thank god!

Stout, Rex. 'Where There's A Will', published in 1992, March by Bantam Books in the United States, 236pp, ISBN 0553295918. Condition: good, but slightly worn copy with mild tanning to internal pages. Price: £5.00, not including p&p, which is Amazon's standard charge, currently £2.75 for UK buyers, more for overseas customers)
1992, Bantam, pbk
In stock, click to buy for £5.00, not including p&p

Alternative online retailers to try:
Click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Abebooks

Or click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Alibris

Or click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Ebay

Alibris UK: books, movies & music

AbeBooks.co.uk

Find this book at Biblio.com!

 

  • Where There's A Will [top]
    First published in 1940 in the US by Farrar and Rhinehart
    First published in 1992, March, in the US by Bantam in paperback, 236pp, ISBN 0553295918.
    Original US retail price: $4.99 (as charged by Brentano's in California)

About this book/synopsis: Why did the late multimillionaire Noel Hawthorne leave his sisters April, May and June, a peach, a pear and an apple? And why did he will the bulk of his considerable estate to a woman who was most definitely not his wife? Nero Wolfe takes on a task to investigate a will, but it soon becomes clear that his investigative forté at investigating murder will be needed instead and as the victims stack up, Nero's genius quietly puts itself to work, and a solution and credible explanation of circumstances and guilt becomes apparent.

Main characters:
Nero Wolfe
Archie Goodwin
Fritz Brenner
Saul Panzer
Theodore Horstmann (looks after Nero's orchids)
Johnny Keems
Orrie Cather
Fred Durkin
Inspector Cramer
Sergeant Purley Stebbins

Then in order of appearance:
April Hawthorne, actress
May Hawthorne
June Hawthorne
Noel Hawthorne (deceased)
John Charles Dunn, Secretary of State of the United States; & married to June
Andrew (Andy) Dunn, 24 yrs old, son of John Dunn & June Hawthorne
Sara Dunn, 22 yrs old, daughter of John Dunn & June Hawthorne
Osric "Ossie" Stauffer of Daniel Cullen and Company - worked in the foreign department next to Noel Hawthorne
Glen Prescott, of the law firm Dunwoodie, Prescott & Davis
Daisy Hawthorne, wife of Noel Hawthorne and called Mrs Noel Hawthorne
Naomi Karn, Noel Hawthorne's mistress
Celia Fleet, April Hawthorne's secretary
District Attorney Bill Skinner
Mr. B. A. Regan, district attorney of Rockland County (where the "incident" with Noel Hawthorne happened)
Dr. Gyger, the medical examiner of Rockland County
Mr. Bryant, the sheriff of Rockland County
Lon Chambers, deputy sheriff of Rockland County
Titus Ames & Mrs Ames (farmers)
Earl Dawson, a.k.a Eugene Davis of the law firm Dunwoodie, Prescott & Davis
Turner - butler at the Hawthorne family home
Lieutenant Bronson
Police Commissioner Hombert
Raymond Plehn

Verdict: 6/10
Not thrilling this one; and it doesn't feature Nero and Archie in their peak form of combat either. Nero Wolfe is out of the house for some of this one, which is unusual for him, particularly since he takes a (not unforeseen) strong dislike to the food of the host's household, but that doesn't last long - it only takes one further event to set Nero running (or rather driving the Roadster) for home, leaving Archie to handle the situation on his own... and Archie's not happy.

Stout could have made a lot more out of June Hawthorne's daughter, Sara Dunn. The character is brash, young, inexperienced and innocent - she has lots of potential to be a semi-irritating, overly helpful and comic character, set against the background of an irritable Archie and silent, sombre straightman Wolfe.

The book is historically interesting in itself in that it refers to the news from Europe not being good right at the very start of the book (i.e. the Second World War getting into stride)

Stout, Rex. 'Bad for Business', published by Hamish Hamilton in their Fingerprint books series, in hardcover, in 1973, 186pp, ISBN 0241023149. Very good condition clean copy with unclipped dustjacket. Price has been scribbled out on dj flap. Price: £6.00, not including p&p, which is Amazon's standard charge (currently in 2007, this is £2.75 for UK buyers, more for overseas customers)
1973, Hamish Hamilton (Fingerprint)
In stock, click to buy for £6.00, not including p&p

Alternative online retailers to try:
Click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Abebooks

Or click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Alibris

Or click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Ebay

  • Bad for Business [top]
    First published in 1940
    Published in 1973 in Great Britain by Hamish Hamilton in the Fingerprint Books series, in hardcover, 186pp, ISBN 0241023149.
    Characters: Tecumseh Fox, Nat Collins, Amy Duncan, Phil Tingley, Arthur Tingley, Miss Yates, Sol Fry, Dol Bonner, Leonard Cliff, Inspector Joseph Damon, Lieutenant Rowcliff (mentioned), Guthrie Judd, Martha Judd (sister of Guthrie Judd), Carrie Murphy, Miss Harley, D.A. Skinner, Edna Schulz.

Story: 'Poison in the Paté' was the agonised message that brought production at Tingley's Titbits factor to a halt. The doses were not lethal to the customers, but they would be to Tingley's reputation if the sabotage did not stop. It looked like a case of cut-throat competition until Tecumseh Fox began to investigate. In no time at all, a throat was really cut and Fox finds that his own client is the prime suspect. Nor was he much helped by Amy Duncan, herself a private investigator who had bungled her first important assignment and been fired in disgrace. Then Amy finds a body-and is herself neatly framed for murder...

Finger Print Books, Hbk, 1973:

Stout, Rex. 'The Silent Speaker', published by Bantam in paperback in February 1994, 276pp, ISBN 0553234978. Sorry, sold out, but click image to access prebuilt search for this title on Amazon)
1994, Bantam
Sorry, sold out, but click image to access prebuilt search for this book on Amazon

Stout, Rex. 'The Silent Speaker', published in paperback in 1977 by Penguin Books in their Penguin Crime series, 207pp, ISBN 0140041699. Condition: very good, well looked-after copy. Rare to find a Penguin copy of this title in such good condition. Price: £4.25, not including p&p (which is Amazon's standard charge (currently £2.75 for UK buyers, more for overseas customers)
1977, Penguin
In stock, click to buy for £4.25, not including p&p

Alternative online retailers to try:
Click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Abebooks

Or click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Alibris

Or click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Ebay

  • The Silent Speaker [top]
    First published in 1946, October in the US by Viking
    Detective Book Club edition published in December 1946
    Penguin Crime edition published in 1977 in Great Britain in paperback, 207pp, ISBN 0140041699. Original UK retail price: £0.75 (75 pence). Cover design by Robert Hollingsworth, photography by Paul Wakefield
    Bantam reprint published in 1994, February

Story: Nero Wolfe is back! And hard at work...if you can call it work...dividing his time between the orchid room upstairs and the custom-built armchair in the study downstairs...lubricating his mental processes with a steady stream of iced beer...and keeping Archie Goodwin and twenty other trained detectives dashing around town doing the dirty work! When a powerful government bureau director, scheduled to speak to a group of millionnaires, turns up dead, with his head smashed in by a demonstration monkey wrench, it is an event worthy of the notice of the great Nero Wolfe. Balancing on the edge of financial ruin, the orchid-loving detective grudgingly accepts the case working his way through the twisted trail of hatreds and jealousies, public and private....needless to say Inspector Cramer is not amused to find Wolfe sniffing around the case.

Soon a second victim is found bludgeoned to death, a missing stenographer's tape causes an uproar, and the dead man speaks, after a fashion. While the business world clamors for a solution, Nero Wolfe patiently lays a trap that will net him a killer worth his weight in gold.

Stout, Rex. 'Prisoner's Base'
Not in stock. Click to access prebuilt Amazon search for this title!

Alternative online retailers to try:
Click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Abebooks

Or click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Alibris

Or click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Ebay

  • Prisoner's Base [top]
    1952, October. Viking edition first published
    1958, February. Dollar Mystery Guild Edition published.
    1953, May. Omnibook syndication
    1953, May. Bantam Edition
    1963, December. New Bantam Edition
    1992, November. Bantam Reissue

Storyline: When Priscilla Eads, heiress to cotton-towel millions, first pleads for Nero Wolfe's assistance, the portly detective decides to wash his hands of a case that has more than its share of dirty laundry. Just hours later Miss Eads and her maid are found strangled to death under circumstances that don't quite wash. Now, to the dismay of a greedy board of directors and a fortune-hunting South American ex-husband, the astute Wolfe feels, on second thought, a certain responsibility to dip into Priscilla's case and scrub away the stain-of murder!

Stout, Rex. 'The Black Mountain', published in 1970 in the United States in paperback, 143pp. Condition: Good, but vintage - has some scuffing to cover edges and some mild tanning to internal pages (browning effect from ageing). Overall a very decent copy, just no longer in its prime. Price: £15.25, not including post and packing, which is Amazon's standard charge (currently £2.75 for UK buyers, more for overseas customers)
1970, 4th printing, pbk
In stock, click to buy for £15.25

Alternative online retailers to try:
Click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Abebooks

Or click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Alibris

Or click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Ebay

Alibris UK: books, movies & music

AbeBooks.co.uk

Find this book at Biblio.com!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alibris UK: books, movies & music

AbeBooks.co.uk

Find this book at Biblio.com!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alibris UK: books, movies & music

AbeBooks.co.uk

Find this book at Biblio.com!

  • The Black Mountain [top]
    First published in October 1954 by The Viking Press, Inc., New York
    Dollar Mystery Guild Edition published in January 1955
    Bantam edition published in November 1955
    Bantam edition reprinted in November 1955 (2nd printing)
    3rd printing published in July 1964
    4th printing published in February 1970

Storyline: Set in New York and Montenegro, Black Mountain is the name of a mountain Nero Wolfe first climbed when he was 9 years old back in the country of his birth and childhood, Montenegro, and it sits on the border with Albania, which in this story is a puppet state of Soviet Russia. It's an apt title, for it's from this area that the troubles in this book originate, dragging Nero Wolfe into some unusual and very dangerous situations both for himself and Archie and his contacts in Montenegro.

Marko Vukcic is dead; the owner of Rusterman's Restaurant and life-long friend of Nero Wolfe has been gunned down outside his house where he lived alone on the top floor at East Fifty-Fourth Street, NY, by an unknown assailant in a parked car. This is shocking enough news, but for Nero Wolfe it's enough for him to allow Archie to break the rule of not speaking about business during dinner and for Nero to attend the morgue in person - the only time he ever did that. But Marko grew up with Nero in Montenegro and it's natural that Nero should feel a strong loyalty to this man; after all they both kept in touch and shared each other's dinner tables twice a month. This story also marks the first time that Nero Wolfe started a murder investigation by a personal visit to a crime scene...

Some suspicion immediately falls upon the six workers at Marko's restaurant - six men who knew that Marko had no close relatives and no relatives at all in New York; six men who knew they would inherit the restaurant if he were to bite the dust. But Felix Martin, Leo and Joe would have happily taken the bullet for Marko, tackled the gunman or called for help - something to stop the murder anyway - and their consciences appear clean.

The lead in the case comes from Nero's adopted daughter (now a widow: Mrs. William R. Britton)- she's waiting for Nero and Archie in Nero's brownstone when they get back from the restaurant and discussing the case with Cramer and Felix. Carla reveals that she was working for the freedom of the Montenegrin people alongside Marko and is contemptuous of Nero for not joining and funding the cause.

It emerges that Marko was heavily involved in the movement, so much so that supplies had been moved into the country - potentially including weapons. It's only natural therefore that Nero starts thinking along the lines of this being a 'hit' organised by either the Tito government in Yugoslavia or the Russian puppet government in Albania.

The weeks progress and Nero and Inspector Cramer get nowhere - nothing cracks the case open, not the women Marko had been involved with, nor the car used in shooting, not the fingerprints recovered. All dead ends, with the press hanging on to the story, sure it had an international angle and loving the fact that Nero Wolfe could not solve it, nor bill anyone for the work; and it being his best friend shot as well!

It's with a visit from a Mr. Stahl of the FBI that Nero and Archie learn that Nero's daughter Carla is under investigation, but they also learn from Stahl that she has disappeared. It's not till Wolfe speaks to Bodin in Paris and Hitchcock in London that they learn about a contact in Bario named Telesio. He makes three calls to Nero and Archie after this initial contact is made - the first reporting that Nero's daughter has made it to Bari, leaving hours later in a small boat crossing the Adriatic (to get to Montenegro). The second call they receive from Telesio tells Wolfe that the man they seek is within sight of the Mountain (i.e. the murderer of Marko is in Montenegro); and the third call is bleak - Carla is dead.

And so starts the dangerous and exciting journey to Montenegro (via London and Bari, Italy) by Nero and Archie to find the murderer(s) of Marko and Carla, on the way meeting Marko's son Danilo Vukcic and his family; and encountering danger and menace both from locals and officials. With guidance and help from men of The Spirit of the Black Mountain and with Archie Goodwin (armed with his own Marley pistol - at his insistence!) at his side, Nero determinedly strives to identify and snare the culprit(s)

Verdict: 6.5/10 - not very gripping, just average and the novelty of Wolfe getting out of his house has worn off (since he has done this on other occasions despite Rex Stout's protestations that Wolfe never leaves the house) even if it's the first time he's going to a morgue, and then abroad, and then up mountains!

The all-important banter between Archie and Wolfe is missing, mainly because the two of them spend most of their time in Montenegro in this book and the only one who can speak the language is Wolfe, so Archie merely gets reports of what has happened secondhand. The magic is therefore missing and the story is sluggish and lumpish.

An rather horrific comment is made quite early in this story (p.20 in the Bantam 1970 4th printing), horrific in the light of the appalling atrocities committed in the March 1992 - November 1995 Bosnia - Herzegovina conflict; and that of Kosovo in 1995-1999. Nero and Archie are researching and contacting organisations in the phonebook whose name begins 'Yugoslav'. They learn this: that "Serbs don't care for Bosnians and even less for Croats." Chilling stuff.

Stout could have made much more of the fact that we end up at Wolfe's birthplace at one point in the story; also the part where the local officials let him and Archie go is incredible and hugely unbelievable. It's almost as if Rex Stout said to himself, "I've got to explore Nero's roots in some way and set a murder mystery in Montenegro - and at the same time get rid of the Carla character I've lumbered myself with", but that his writing skills just weren't up to the task; either that or his heart just wasn't in it.
In summary - it's a reasonable read, but given that this book is about a movement called 'The Spirit of the Black Mountain', there's an enormous lack of spirit

Characters:
Nero Wolfe (a.k.a. Toné Stara in Montenegro; Carl Gunther on the steamship home)
Archie Goodwin (a.k.a. Alex Stara, Toné's son in Montenegro; Alex Gunther on the steamship home). Archie was none too keen on the whole Alex thing!
Fritz - Nero's accomplished chef
Marko Vukcic (deceased)
Danilo Vukcic (his nephew in Montenegro)
Meta Vukcic, Danilo's wife
Ivan and Zosha Vukcic - Danilo and Meta's sons
Stefan Protic - drives Nero, Archie and Danilo into the mountains along the Cijevna
Signor Paolo Telesio - contact in Bari
Carla Britton (Mrs William Britton, née Carla Lovchen, Nero's adopted daughter). Appeared also in Over My Dead Body
Dmitri Shuvalov - one of the top 3 Russians in Albania, present at the old Roman fort in the mountains
Bua - Albanian guard at the old Roman fort
Richard Couteney from the US embassy in Italy - comes to meet Nero and Archie when they step off the plane in Rome
Thomas Arnold, the American Consul
Signor Angelo Bizzaro, the warden of the jail Nero and Archie find themselves in in Italy
Hitchcock (detective contact and friend in London). Appeared also in Over My Dead Body
Bodin (contact in Paris)
Guido Battista - captain of a boat who runs Nero and Archie across the Adriatic to Montenegro
George Bilic - owner of a car in Rijeka
Jubé Bilic - George's son - drives Nero and Archie to Titograd, which Nero keeps (wrongly, but stubbornly - ever the stubborn man) referring to as Podgorica, its former name
Gospo Stritar - police chief in Titograd
Peter Zov - a flat nosed police officer present with Stritar when Nero and Archie are brought in
Inspector Cramer
Sergeant Purley Stebbins
Lieutenant Rowcliff
Mr. Stahl (FBI)
Donovan -sergeant at the morgue desk
Felix Martin (employee at Rusterman's)
Joe (employee at Rusterman's)
Leo (employee at Rusterman's)
Drogo - organises a plane in Rome to take Nero and Archie to Bari
Josip Pasic - took Telesio a message from Carla to forward on to Nero about the man Nero sought being in sight of the mountain
Theodore - Nero's "gardener", orchid expert
Nathaniel Parker - Nero's lawyer
Nero's detectives (tiny role in this story):
Saul Panzer, Fred Durkin and Orrie Cather

Stout, Rex. 'Nero Wolfe: Three Men Out', published in 1980 in the United State by Bantam Books in paperback, 152pp, ISBN 0553136666. Condition: Good, but vintage - has some mild tanning to internal pages and the cover. Cover edges are slightly worn. Price: £10.25, not including post and packing, which is Amazon's standard charge, currently £2.75 for UK buyers and more for overseas customers
1980, Bantam, pbk
In stock, click to buy for £10.25, not including post and packing

Alternative online retailers to try:
Click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Abebooks

Or click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Alibris

Or click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Ebay

Alibris UK: books, movies & music

AbeBooks.co.uk

Find this book at Biblio.com!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alibris UK: books, movies & music

AbeBooks.co.uk

Find this book at Biblio.com!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alibris UK: books, movies & music

AbeBooks.co.uk

Find this book at Biblio.com!

 

  • Three Men Out [top]
    Includes three short mysteries originally published in 'American Magazine':
    Invitation to Murder (originally called 'Will To Murder' - August 1953)
    The Zero Clue (originally called 'Scared to Death' - December 1953)
    This Won't Kill You (originally called 'This Will Kill You' - September 1952)
    First published in 1954 in the United States by The Viking Press, all together in one volume under this title
    Reprinted in June 1954 in the United States in the Dollar Mystery Guild Edition
    Reprinted in November 1955 in the United States by Bantam
    Reprinted in December 1955 (2nd), July 1964 (3rd), October 1969 (4th), February 1970 (5th), January 1976 (6th)
    1980 (7th printing), in the United States, by Bantam Books in paperback, 152pp, ISBN 0553136666

Storylines:

Invitation to Murder
Mr. Herman Lewent has a rather unusual assignment for Nero Wolfe and he's got an immediate downpayment of $1,000 as bait for the famous detective duo. Lewent needs Goodwin or Wolfe to his father's and sister's affairs.

The background here, as Lewent explains it to the two of them, is that his wayward behaviour caused a rift between him and his father when he was young. Despite this, his father continued to pay him an allowance and never saw him starve. However, when his father died, he left everything to Mr. Lewent's sister Beryl with the proviso that she continue to consider her brother's needs. She honoured her father's wishes and continued to give some financial support to her brother right up until her death; which occurred at a point in time when Mr. Lewent was residing abroad. The multi-million inheritance, which Mr. Lewent so depended (and depends) upon ended up with Theodore Huck, the husband of his late sister; and it was willed to him with exactly the same provision in it about considering the needs of Mr. Lewent. Huck honours the provision and continues to pay Lewent a monthly allowance - $1,000 - the symbolic figure that Lewent puts in front of Nero and Archie.

Trouble is, the way Lewent figures it, this allowance is in deep peril. Huck's nephew, Paul Thayer, who is living in his uncle's (Huck's) mansion, has warned Lewent that there are indications that one of the three women Huck employs (the secretary - Miss Dorothy Riff; the housekeeper - Mrs Cassie O' Shea; or the nurse - Miss Sylvia Marcy) is making a concerted play for millionnaire Huck. Lewent is naturally concerned that once Huck and the girl have got together, they'll start thinking of ways to stop paying him any inheritance whatsoever.

You might ask why Lewent figures he'd get cut off - fact is, his sister was murdered by ptomaine poisoning from something she ate. Together with the rumour from Thayer that one of the women is after Huck, Lewent reckons that the woman in question is likely to have gone as far as murdering his sister in the first place.

Lewent therefore needs Nero and Archie to find out which of the women it is so he can try and win her sympathy to try and insure against his allowance being cut off. Nero's not impressed with this job- he gets up and leaves the room. Archie's then a bit stuck - he can't turn down Lewent's work and continue to ride Wolfe about all the work he keeps turning down (and let's face it, winding up Nero Wolfe is something Goodwin relishes with fanatical zeal!). So Lewent gets Goodwin's talents for his thousand bucks. Little does Wolfe realise that he's going to end up solving the case himself anyway and that of an additional murder! Goodwin might not be able to get a handle on this assignment, but there's one thing this case proves - he sure knows how to manipulate Wolfe into leaving the comfort of the Brownstone and coming to his rescue!

The Zero Clue
In 'The Zero Clue', a famous mathematician Leo Heller (Archie calls him 'The Probability Wizard', with a reputation for solving some pretty obscure problems with mathematical formulae believes one of his clients has committed a crime and calls Nero and Archie (by phone) to investigate. Unfortunately he catches Nero Wolfe in mid rage up in the glasshouses at the top of the house where an invasion of thrips has attacked his orchids and Nero won't hear anything of taking a case for such a charlatan...(Nero's got issues with anyone professing to be able to help folk just with using formulae/psychic research, etc - he just doesn't buy it). Add into the mix that Leo Heller solved a case of an employee giving trade secrets to a competitor when Nero Wolfe to all intents botched the case (Orrie Cather made a mess of it) and the relationship between Wolfe and Heller is at best going to be difficult and tense...

Archie therefore decides to drop in on Heller and, when witnessed setting foot in Heller's building by a selection of his clients, accidentally sets off a whole train of events. Leo gets topped by the client he suspects of committing a crime, but not before leaving a cryptic clue for the cops in the form of pencils left on his desk that say: “N. W.” But what does this mean? Has Wolfe murdered his client? Or is there another explanation? The cops are naturally keen to find out and are rapidly losing patience with Wolfe's protestations that he has a good idea who the culprit is. It's only when Wolfe twigs what the pencils are saying that the inventive murderer is unmasked.

This Won't Kill You
Like the first story in this trio, Nero has been cajoled into leaving the comfort of the Brownstone - this is pretty amazing in itself, but there has to be good reason for something like this happening and this time it's related to food, one of Nero's signature weaknesses and not a case. Pierre Mondor of the famous Mondor's Restaurant in Paris is their house guest and he's got it into his head that Nero absolutely has to take him to a ball game. We therefore find them watching the Giants playing the 7th and deciding game against the Red Sox at the Polo Park.

Archie loves the Giants, but things are going badly for them…and even worse for one of their players – Nick Ferrone. Owner of the Giants, Emil Chisholm, in debt to Nero over a previous case, secured them the all-important tickets for this match; and knowing just how good Wolfe is at solving mysteries, immediately sends for him when things start going wrong. He establishes from the pitiful performance of four of his players that they've been doped. Someone in the know has drugged their Beebright drinks with Sodium Phenobarbital. Not just that, but Nick Ferrone has gone missing. Archie's investigations lead him to stumble upon a body; the police have been called, and the race to identify the killer and the perpetrator of the drugging gets underway: Wolfe needs to get to the answer first; he's got a fat fee to earn!

Characters:
[in relative order of importance]
Invitation to Murder
Nero Wolfe
Archie Goodwin
Mr. Herman Lewent, brother-in-law to Theodore Huck
Theodore Huck, husband of his Herman Lewent's late sister, Beryl
Paul Thayer, nephew of Huck
Inspector Cramer
Mrs Cassie O'Shea, widow, housekeeper to Huck
Miss Sylvia Marcy, a nurse
Miss Dorothy Riff (secretary)
Assistant DA Mandelbaum
Deputy Police Commissioner Boyle
Sergeant Purley Stebbins

The Zero Clue
Nero Wolfe
Archie Goodwin
Inspector Cramer
Leo Heller (deceased)
Theodore Horstmann, Nero's orchid nurse
Nils Lamm - doorman on Leo Heller's building
Sergeant Purley Stebbins
Lieutenant Rowcliff
Thrips
-The clients of Leo Heller in the frame for murder:
1. Agatha Abbey, executive editor of the fashion magazine 'Mode'
2. Susan Maturo, a nurse
3. John R. Winslow - the big guy in the dark blue topcoat and homburg (when Archie went to see Heller, this was the guy who stuck his head out of the lift for a look at Goodwin) - asked Leo Heller to devise a formula to work out how long his aunt would live...
4. Henrietta Tillotson - an overfed matron (Archie's words) last seen in Heller's waiting room
5. Jack Ennis - an inventor, or expert die-maker, currently unemployed
6. Karl Busch - tried to engage Leo Heller in using mathematical formulae to predict the winner in horse races

This Won't Kill You
Nero Wolfe
Archie Goodwin
Lila Moyse, wife of Bill Moyse, the second-string catcher
Daniel Gale - uncle of Lila Moyse - runs a downtown pharmacy
Inspector Hennessy of uptown homicide
Commissioner Skinner
District Attorney Megalech
Pierre Mondor, owner of the famous Mondor's restaurant in Paris
Emil Chisholm - oil millionnaire - former grateful client of Nero's and current owner of the Giants
Baseball players: Ed Romeike, Lew Baker, Tiny Garth, Oaky Asmussen, Nick Ferrone, Con Prentiss - the short stop, Nat Neill, Joe Eston, William "Bill" Moyse - second-string catcher,
Art Kinney - manager of the Giants
Doctor Horton Soffer - doctor to the Giants
Beaky Durkin - a talent scout for the Giants - he had discovered Ferrone
Helen Goidell, Walt's wife

Verdict: 8/10. Rex Stout on top form - three excellent, fun stories, showing Archie Goodwin at his best winding Nero Wolfe up and lots of appearances by the impatient and bad-tempered Inspector Cramer. The baseball murder mystery 'This Won't Kill You' is the best of the bunch - well written, interesting, funny, tense, and keeps the culprit hidden right to the end. Plus Archie proves to be a key mover in cracking the case on his own initiative. This book will also provide a good introduction to the detective duo to anyone new to Rex Stout mysteries.

Other Rex Stout Books:

Nero Wolfe DVDs

American Murder Mystery:

Stout, Rex. 'Before Midnight', published in May 1972 in paperback, 192pp, No ISBN. Condition: Good to very good with mild tanning to internal pages & reading crease to spine. Price: £2.90, not including p&p, which is Amazon's standard charge (currently £2.75 for UK buyers, more for overseas customers)
1972, Fontana
In stock, click to buy for £2.75, not including p&p

Alternative online retailers to try:
Click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Abebooks

Or click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Alibris

Or click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Ebay

  • Before Midnight [top]
    First published in 1955 in New York by Viking
    First published in 1956 in London by Collins Crime Club
    First issued in 1962 in Fontana Books (Collins) in paperback
    Reprinted in May 1970 in Fontana (Collins) in paperback
    Reprinted in May 1972 in Fontana (Collins) in paperback No. 2329, 192pp. Original UK retail price: UK £0.25; Australia & New Zealand: 85c; Canada 95c

Story: Pour Amour Ltd. runs a nationwide 'Beauties of History' competition to advertise its exotic new perfume. A million dollars in prize money awaits the lucky winners, but only one man knows the results. When that man is found murdered, with the vital information stolen from his corpse, Pour Amour calls in Nero Wolfe. The great detective, used to putting brains before beauty, is soon on the scent and, after bending the rules a little, eventually comes up with all the answers

Stout, Rex. 'Champagne for One' published by Bantam in paperback in 1996, 214pp, ISBN 0553244388. Sorry, out of stock, but click to access prebuilt search for this title on Amazon
1996, Bantam
Sorry, out of stock, but click to access prebuilt search for this title on Amazon

Alternative online retailers to try:
Click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Abebooks

Or click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Alibris

Or click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Ebay

  • Champagne for One [top]
    First published in 1958, November in the US by Viking
    Bantam edition published in 1960, April
    Bantam edition reissued in 1996, January

Story: Faith Usher had a decidedly morbid personality. She talked about taking her life, and kept cyanide in her purse. So when she collapses and dies from a lethal champagne cocktail in the middle of a high society dinner party, everyone calls it suicide-including the police. but Archie was watching it all, and suspects it was murder. So does Nero Wolfe, especially after he's warned by four men against taking the case. For the world's most formidable detective it is a tantalizing puzzle involving an unlikely combination of philanthropy, deception, blackmail, and an unrepentant killer who just may have committed the perfect crime...

Stout, Rex. 'Gambit', published in 1973 in the United States by Bantam in paperback, 155pp, No ISBN. Acceptable condition: wholly intact & readable, but vintage, worn and with tanning to internal pages (browning effect from ageing). Still a decent reading copy. Price: £10.99, not including p&p, which is Amazon's standard charge (currently £2.75 for UK buyers, more for overseas customers)
1973, Bantam, pbk
In stock, click to buy for £10.99. Decent reading copy, but vintage

Alternative online retailers to try:
Click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Abebooks

Or click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Alibris

Or click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Ebay

Alibris UK: books, movies & music

AbeBooks.co.uk

Find this book at Biblio.com!

 

 

 

  • Gambit [top]
    First published in October 1962 in the United States by The Viking Press.
    First published in February 1964 in the United States by Bantam
    2nd Bantam printing published in January 1967
    3rd Bantam printing published in January 1967
    4th Bantam printing published in July 1968
    5th Bantam printing published in September 1969
    6th Bantam printing publshed in February 1970
    7th Bantam printing (pictured left) published in August 1973. Original US retail price when published: 95 cents

Story: Paul Jerin was a mental freak - one of those eerily brilliant geniuses who could play a dozen games of chess at once and win every one of them and he was setting out to do just this at the Gambit Club, West Twelfth Street, New York. Matthew Blount was a millionnaire fanatic with a fiendishly ingenious plan for beating Jerin at his favourite pastime. At the Gambit Club that Tuesday night, January 30th, there was an event - Jerin, 26 yrs old was to play 12 simultaneous games with twelve of the Gambit Club Members. But there was more, he was going to do it BLINDFOLD.

The scene: Gambit Club, 40 members present, all male. Additionally Paul Jerin, the steward Bernard Nash and the cook Tony Laghi were in the club. On the ground floor, there were 12 chess tables in two rows, six tables in each row ranged along the walls. At each table, a club member sat with his back to the wall. In the middle of the room between the tables, the other members could walk around and watch the moves.

Four of these club members were messengers between their three numbered tables and Jerin the chess genius, who was in the back of the club in the library. When a man made a move, the messenger would go into Jerin, report the number of the table and the move made. Jerin would give the messenger his move in reply. Jerin was alone in the library except when the messengers came in, who were: Charles W. Yerkes, banker; Daniel Kalmus, attorney-at-law (Matthew Blount's lawyer); Ernst Hausman, wealthy retired broker; and Morton Farrow, Mrs. Matthew Blount's nephew. Matthew Blount played at table 6.

8.40 pm. Play Starts. A pot of hot chocolate is taken in to Jerin (he always drinks this), but at 9.30, Jerin heads downhill fast and says he can't carry on. Dr. Avery is called, but can't save him. Suspicion points at the chocolate - Matthew Blount carried it in to Jerin and is prime suspect. His daughter, Sally Blount, has $22,000 (twenty-two thousand) she's collected together to hire Wolfe to prove he's not guilty and get him out of custody.

So, it was up to Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin to prove that Blount's plan had not included murder... But if it wasn't him, who was it? Especially since the case against Blount looked pretty open and shut. Possibly Nero's toughest case yet, he steps up to the plate and provides the goods for a great mystery!

Characters:
[in order of appearance]
Archie Goodwin
Nero Wolfe
Sally Blount, daughter of Matthew Blount, President of the Blount Textie Corporation
Fritz Brenner, chef and housekeeper
Lon Cohen, reporter for the Gazette
Mr. Ernst Hausman
Anna Blount, Sally's Mother
Daniel Kalmus - attorney-at-law, lawyer to Matthew Blount
Morton Farrow, Matthew Blount's nephew
Inspector Cramer of Homicide West
Charles W. Yerkes, banker
Dr. Victor Avery, doctor and old friend of Matthew Blount's
Saul Panzer, detective occasionally hired in by Wolfe
Fred Durkin, detective occasionally hired in by Wolfe
Orrie Cather, detective occasionally hired in by Wolfe
Mr. Dobbs, superintendent of Daniel Kalmus's apartment building
Sergeant Purley Stebbins

Verdict: 9/10:
Just right for a couple of days commuting read, or a few hours solid enjoyment at least, this story is probably one of the better Nero Wolfe mysteries (although I still prefer In the Best Families and Some Buried Caesar).

It rates highly because it really is a case that looks impossible to crack - Nero knows it and Archie effectively took it on for him because he wanted to watch Nero solve it.

You don't get the best out of Inspector Cramer (a character I'm quite fond of) in this particular mystery from his fleeting visits, but Archie is in fine form winding Nero up; and Nero is stressed because he has a woman in the house (the client), which is something he's really not used to, not to mention VERY resistant to. He can't even bring himself to refer to the room she's staying in as 'her room'.

But fundamentally you know that Nero is a nice guy - he might be bad tempered (irritable is probably better) fussy and work-shy, but once he's used to a new situation, he makes the most of it. In this story, for example, after his dictionary ripping exercise (we find Nero doing this at the start of the book -he's taken offence at Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language-and decides to feed the fire with it), he finds the client has been reading Voltaire from his library and proceeds to rip into Voltaire as well with discussion stretching from lunch to dinner for this topic...not a topic many dinner tables would take on I suspect.

An interesting literary link came out of this book - African Genesis by Robert Ardrey (published 1961)- a book which has just arrived in the story and which Nero immerses himself in. I read Terry Nation's 'Survivors' just after this and was surprised to find this book mentions it as well. Small world!
In short, it's great and the brilliant thing about it is there's not just one guilty party - there are a few, but the guilt is at different levels. Look out for the classic con trick that Wolfe pulls at the end of the book to get the result he wants - it's not something Wolfe resorts to very often, but you've got to admit it's effective. So it's a difficult one for Wolfe all-in-all, but his solution works to his and Cramer's advantage, even if Cramer is too angry to see it...

More Nero Wolfe Books on Amazon:

African Genesis:

Stout, Rex. 'The Mother Hunt', published by Bantam in 1993, May, in paperback, 214pp, ISBN 0553247379. Price:£1.99, not including p&p, which is Amazon's standard charge (currently £2.75 for UK buyers, slightly more for overseas customers)
1993, Bantam
In stock, click to buy for £1.99, not including p&p

Alternative online retailers to try:
Click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Abebooks

Or click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Alibris

Or click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Ebay

  • The Mother Hunt [top]
    First published in the US in 1963 by Viking in hardcover
    Bantam edition published in 1981, December
    Bantam edition reissued in 1993, May

Story: When an abandoned baby is left on her doorstep, the young socialite widow knows only too well the identity of the father: her deceased philanderer of a husband. But who is the mother? The case seems like child's play to Wolfe, until the first dead body. While the police nurse their grudges against him, and the widow nurses Archie, the genius sleuth and his sidekick look for the hand that rocked the cradle. But nothing can pacify the killer, who's found the formula for murder-and is determined to milk it for all it's worth.

Stout, Rex. 'Death of A Dude' published in 1973 in the United States by Bantam in paperback (5th reprinting), 154pp, no ISBN. Condition: Fair. Perfectly readable and serviceable reading copy, intact, just vintage with some tanning to internal pages and creasing and rubbing to the spine. Price: £1.85, not including post and packing, which is Amazon's standard charge (£2.75 for UK buyers, more for overseas customers)
1973, Bantam, pbk
In stock, click to buy for £1.85, not including postage and packing

Alternative online retailers to try:
Click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Abebooks

Or click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Alibris

Or click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Ebay

Alibris UK: books, movies & music

AbeBooks.co.uk

Find this book at Biblio.com!

  • Death of a Dude [top]
    First published in August 1969 in the United States by The Viking Press, Inc.
    Doubleday Mystery Guild edition published October 1969
    Serialized in Canadian Magazine in November 1969
    Published in August 1970 by Bantam
    Reprinted (2nd) by Bantam in September 1970, (3rd) April 1971, (4th) May 1972 1973, July; 5th Printing: 154pp, no ISBN

Storyline: Many clients had tried or ordered Nero Wolfe to pay them a visit and the answer was usually a resounding "No." Nero didn't leave his brownstone in New York - he didn't see why he should-and he didn't travel far when he did. So persuading Nero to travel halfway across the United States to get to Montana to help with a case was going to take some careful crafting of the wording in the letter Archie was addressing to Nero from Lily Rowan's ranch in Montana. But this was going to be a cinch - Archie was well aware of how to push Nero Wolfe's buttons and get a reaction and here would be no different.

After all, if Archie couldn't solve this case he'd taken on in Montana, it would delay even further his return to the brownstone in New York and this in itself would nag at Nero, a man who hates uncertainty. When Nero received the letter, Archie knew very well he would glare at Archie's chair...Archie's been trying to solve the murder of Philip Brodell, a dude shot in the back while picking Huckleberries. Trouble is Lily Rowan's ranch manager Harvey Greve has been arrested for the crime and put in the County Jail and whilst both Lily and Archie are convinced he didn't do it most of the townsfolk, including his own daughter, do.

Archie - due to stonewalling by the townsfolk - has reached a dead end. No-one will talk and he's at a loss to know where to proceed from here. All the townsfolk see Archie and Lily as out-of-towners (dude and dudine) and the shooting of a Brodell is their fault. Of course it doesn't help that Archie's favourite for the crime is Gilbert Haight, who works at the Presto Gas Station and is the sheriff's (Morley Haight's) son.

Anyway, you'll have to read the book to find out if Nero gets involved or if Archie solves it on his own...

Characters:
Archie Goodwin
Lily Rowan
Nero Wolfe
Philip Brodell (the late)
Luther Dawson - lawyer hired by Lily as defence counsel
Thomas R. Jessup, county attorney
Harvey Greve
Carol Greve, wife to Harvey
Alma Greve - Harvey's teenage daughter
Gilbert Haight, the sheriff's son
Morley Haight, the sheriff
Ed. Welch, Deputy Sheriff
Evers, the second full time Deputy Sheriff
Diana Kadany, house guest at Lily's ranch. Fond of any male company in the vicinity. Had made a hit in a play 'Not Me You Don't', a play that Lily put the money up for
Wade Worthy - 2nd house guest at Lily's ranch and currently employed by Lily to write up the biography of her father James Gilmore Rowan
Woodrow Stepanian, "Woody", owner of the Woodrow Stepanian Hall of Culture
Mel Fox - runs the ranch whilst Harvey is in the slammer
Pete Ingalls - ranch hand
Mimi Defand
Mr. Oliver McFerland - has banking and mining interests in Montana
Mr. Veale, the attorney general in Helena
William T. Farnham (Bill)
Sam Peacock, one of the two wranglers at Farnhams
Magee, worker at Farnhams
Mr. Joseph Colihan, from Denver - worker at Bill Farnham's
Mr. Armand Dubois, from Denver - worker at Bill Farnham's
Connie, cook at Bill Farnhams
Robert C. Amory MD - doctor - staying with wife at Bill Farnham's ranch; Beatrice Amory (wife)
Mort Vawter, Mabel Vawter (wife) and Johnny Vawter (son)
Emmett Lake - rode herd at the Bar JR
Flora Eaton, a big-boned widow, does laundry and house chores at the Bar JR
Henrietta (bootlegger)
Miss Bessie Boughton, former teacher of Gilbert Haight
Peggy Truett, dances with Archie at Woody's
Frank Milhaus, MD., doctor
Dr. Hutchins, the coronor

Verdict: 7/10:
It's not the absolute best of Nero Wolfe stories, but it scores highly and part of the reason for this is that you really are in the dark as to who the culprit is right till the end of the story. The relationship between Lily and Archie is strong and complementary, although Lily could have been given more of a part overall - she's important (she's the reason Archie is there in the first place; and Harvey Greve is her ranch manager), but there could have been much more banter and discussion between them.

Lending credibility and edge to the story are the problems Nero and Archie experience with the local Montana officers, here the sheriff Haight and the county attorney Jessup, where political machinations get in the way of the murder investigation, but it's nice to see Wolfe outside of his brownstone and up against different officers of the law and different sets of problems.

Overall, this story doesn't shine and it's not remarkable; but it's still good writing and still very enjoyable, even if just for adding to the Nero and Archie story; and the Archie and Lily story

Other Rex Stout Books:

Stout, Rex. 'Royal Flush' published by Viking Press in 1965, 474pp, hardcover with dustjacket (clipped). Condition: good, clean copy. Has some light tanning to internal pages & the spine is sunned. Spine edges are also slightly rubbed. Price:£12.00 (not including p&p, which for example is £2.50 for UK 1st Class, £2.07 for UK 2nd class. Surface mail worldwide is £3.45. Other postage rates are available
1965, Viking Press, hbk
In stock, click to buy for £12.00, not including p&p

Alternative online retailers to try:
Click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Abebooks

Or click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Alibris

Or click here to access our prebuilt search for this title on Ebay

  • Royal Flush [top]
    First published in the US in 1965 by Viking Press New York and published simultaneously in Canada by The Macmillan Company of Canada Limited
    474pp, hardcover with dustjacket.
    Please note that genuine first editions of any Rex Stout book will list other Rex Stout titles opposite the title page.

Contents:
Fer-de-Lance
Murder by the Book
And one threesome: Three Witnesses: The Next Witness; When a Man Murders; and Die Like a Dog. Three Witnesses is a collection of Nero Wolfe novellas by Rex Stout, published by the Viking Press in 1956 and itself collected in the omnibus volume Royal Flush (Viking 1965). The book contains three stories that first appeared in The American Magazine:

  • "The Next Witness" (May 1955, as "The Last Witness")
  • "When a Man Murders..." (May 1954)
  • "Die Like a Dog" (December 1954, as "The Body in the Hall")

Each story in this collection features a witness, not to a murder but to the events leading to it.

 

 

Rex Stout Books/Magazines at Ebay:


[top]

 



Rex Stout Books on Amazon:
[please note that lack of pricing for a book does not mean book is out of stock, but that there are only secondhand copies available]
[top]