In If Death Ever Slept what Nero Wolfe later describes as a joint act of “mulishness” leads Wolfe to undertake a case he would have never taken otherwise as Archie goes undercover as Alan Green, the secretary to an eccentric millionaire named Otis Jarrell who believes his daughter-in-law is “a snake” who obtained information from his in-home office and shared it with a competitor who beat him out of a business arrangement.
The client is aware of both Archie and Wolfe by reputation, and Archie quickly learns that Wolfe was only hired to gain Archie’s help. Jarrell offers Archie a personal fee in addition to Wolfe’s fee for finding or fabricating evidence that leads his son to divorce his daughter-in-law. Archie doesn’t want any part of that arrangement, but decides to stay on to earn a fee for Wolfe by finding out how and if information was leaked from the office.
In the midst of this, a gun disappears from the client’s office and the client ignores Archie’s advice to report the theft to the police as required by law. When, a man is murdered with the same caliber bullet as the missing gun, Wolfe and Archie are left in a real pickle. Their goal is no longer to earn a fee, but to extricate themselves from this mess with their licenses and reputations intact.
Rex Stout outdid himself in creating the Jarrell household as fully formed and interesting characters. The women are particularly fun including the wealthy secretary, the eccentric daughter, and the flirty stepmother. In addition, Stout builds a complete family culture that is no less real than the culture of Wolfe’s house on 35th street. The Jarrell home also has a very unique and interesting character.
A highlight were the scenes in Wolfe’s office where Archie remained undercover and Orrie Cather impersonated Archie Goodwin.
The mystery is good enough. The solution is achieved in a very workmanlike fashion that involves an itenary for each suspect. The one downside of the audiobook version is that it takes about half an hour to read through the 4-day itenaries. Still, with great characters and Dol Bonner appearing to discover the vital clue, I’ll give, If Death Ever Slept:
Rating: Very Satisfactory
You can find all the Nero Wolfe books in Kindle, Audiobook, and book form on our Nero Wolfe page.
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