The Great Detectives of Old Time Radio The great ones are back in action.

31Dec/110

Book Review: Too Many Women

In Too Many Women, Wolfe is brought on a personnel matter. The Naylor-Kerr company studying employee retention asked supervisors to fill out a card for each departed employee. One manager sets off a sensation when he lists the reason for one employee's departure as "murdered." Officially, the police had said the case was a hit and run. Wolfe and Archie are hired to quiet the rumors one way or another.

The client's idea was to have Wolfe come and work undercover at the firm. Wolfe rejects this absurd idea out of hand but as he and Archie are quarreling he's more than happy to have Archie go undercover as a consultant at the firm.

Archie finds himself involved in a complex web of rumors, gossips, and office jealousies in this post-war office dominated by females. The supervisor who made the original allegation informs Archie that he knows who the killer is. Archie reports the statement and then the supervisor is retracts it and is killed in the same manner as the first victim. Now Archie and Wolfe have to catch a murderer.

This is actually not one of my favorite Wolfe stories and I seem to be in the minority on this. I thought the overall idea of domestic discord in the Wolfe household was better handled in If Death Ever Slept. In Too Many Women, Wolfe has managed to tick everyone in the household off: Archie by demanding he replace his typewriter, Fritz through his interference in cooking, and Theodore by putting non-Orchid flowers into the orchid area. It's hard to believe that Wolfe would simultaneously irritate everyone at the same time by interferring everyone else's business given how much effort has gone in to establishing the tranquility of this home.

I also have to note that Stout did something different with his chaptering. Usually, Nero Wolfe books have around 20 (or less) chapters of about equal length with the first few chapters perhaps being a little longer as Stout establishes the premise of the story. Stout, chose to use several quick chapters at the beginning as the story was being established. An action-packed or suspenseful book can benefit from short chapters as it adds tension. However, Stout's use of short chapters at the beginning gives you the feeling that the book is going nowhere fast when you look up and see that you've reached Chapter 11 and nothing significant has happened.

Stout usually crafts some interesting supporters characters. No such luck in Too Many Women. With the exception of the person who alleged the murder and one woman in the officers, the employees at Naylor-Kerr are mostly the same: hot-headed men and amorous gossiping women.

The story redeems itself towards the end when Wolfe and Archie rally under police pressure to patch up the differences and uses the deception and gossip within the office to solve the case. The end is particularly noteworthy given that the killer never sets foot in Wolfe's office, which is certainly unusual for Wolfe stories.

Rating: Satisfactory

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17Dec/110

Book Review: A Right to Die

Nero Wolfe encountered Paul Whipple in 1938's Too Many Cooks as a black waiter in West Virginia studying anthropology. Wolfe obtained Whipple's help in solving the murder of a famous chef.

Twenty-four years laters, Whipple calls in his marker to get a favor from Wolfe. Now an Assistant Professor of Anthropology, he shows up unannounced at the Brownstone and quotes Wolfe's remarks on racial equality with Wolfe stating, "The ideal human agreement is one in which distinctions of race and color and religion are totally disregarded."

The professor quotes this speech of Wolfe's and then, with no sense of irony whatsoever, asks Wolfe to investigate his son's fiancee' to find out what's wrong with her as she's a white woman wanting to marry his son. Wolfe objects to the investigation, but at last agrees to do the job in order to repay the debt he owes to Whiple for helping him solve the case.

Archie meets the woman in question and finds her to be an eager and earnest civil rights campaigner who also believes strongly in the potential of Whipple's son. She tells Lily Rohan that she thinks he'll be the first black Mayor of New York. Convinced their wasting their time, Wolfe still sends Archie out to he young woman's hometown in the Midwest for a thorough check. All Archie finds out is that a suitor took his own life on her doorstep. Archie's about ready to give up the investigation when the decision before him when the young woman is found murdered.

However Archie and Wolfe aren't out of it for long. When the younger Whipple is charged with the murder, Wolfe sets out to serve justice and repay his decades old dobt to the young man's father.

There are many questions that are raised by A Right to Die. For practical plot purposes, I wonder whether every key witness in a Nero Wolfe case is entitled to one free case from Nero Wolfe. The book also gloss es over the agelessness of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin as Nero and Archie haven't aged a day while the young waiter is old enough to have an adult son working at a Civil Rights organization.

The book also serves us a large  dodse of social commentary. Stout and Wolfe both supported the civil rights movement, but Stout raises several issues in the book including reverse racism, prejudice, and perils of race consciousness. The book actually presents an interesting contrast on the latter issue. Wolfe treats blacks in the story the same as white and is accused of racism. On the other hand, Wolfe doesn't believe the younger Whipple is going to be charged due to flimsy evidence and motive. The Whipples are certain that he will be charged, but Wolfe reaffirms his belief by stating that while New York City isn't perfect, "it's not Dixie." Wolfe is proven wrong when Whipple is charged.

Stout also decided to be even more avant garde and have Archie fall in love with a black woman. However, Archie never approaches the woman romantically and never says anything outside of his official capacity. And the woman barely says anything, and nothing noteworthy the entire book. While, I know that inter-racial dating was really not done as a rule in 1964, what Stout manages to do is to create the most shallow and one-sided of the many "romances" of Archie Goodwin.

The second murder was also a bit telegraphed. The victim called Archie and mentioned that he suspected about the murder and would give them a call back because he didn't want to talk about it until he was sure. Next thing, we knew the victim was dead. I always wondered why, having experienced this same phenomena a few dozen times, Archie never says, "You know the last twelve people who had that idea were murdered before they got back to me. How about you come over and tell me about it and we can go ask together?"

Wolfe spends most of the book in a fog and only solves the  case on a hunch. Clearly, A Right to Die is not among the better books in the series. However, the investigation while not particularly fruitful does produce some interesting moments including a couple of trips by Archie out of town. And Stout works in some very ironic moments that work quite well.

Overall, I 'll give the book:

Rating: Satisfactory

You can find all the Nero Wolfe books in Kindle, Audiobook, and book form on our Nero Wolfe page.

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19Nov/110

Book Review: Gambit

A prominent citizen is accused of murdering one of his daughter's suitors by poisoning his drink while he's engaged in a blindfolded chess match with 12 different chess players. Wolfe is hired by the daughter of the accused who believes that her father's lawyer is up to no good due to being in love with her mother. The lawyer opposes hiring Wolfe which means Wolfe must free his client's father without his cooperation.

 

The language of Chess figures prominently in the story. Indeed, the title of the story comes from the realization by Wolfe that given that no one other than the accused had a motive to kill the victim leads Wolfe to conclude that the murder was a gambit meant to get the accused out of the way. Wolfe instead of searching for someone with a motive to kill the victim, he has to find someone with a motive to get the accused executed or sent up for life.

Once again, Stout creates a wonderful cast of supporting characters and suspects.  The scene where one suspect offers to hire Wolfe to suborn perjury to get the accused off is comedy gold, particularly as the man expects Wolfe to be on the hook for the crime and to protect him entirely.

Overall, Gambit was surprising in that except for the actual culprit, the suspects turned out to be mostly decent and honest people, a refreshing break with the stereotypical sociopath-filled murder suspect family.

Archie is good as always, and Wolfe is at his eccentric best. The novel opens with Wolfe burning an offensive book in the fireplace: the newest edition of the dictionary which Wolfe views as a threat to the English language. Wolfe asks his prospective client, "Do you use imply and infer interchangeably?... According to this book, you can."   Wolfe has to struggle to be polite when pressure from her family to drop the case leads his client to take up temporary residence in the Brownstone for several days.

The payoff of the novel is just as good. This one is unique as Archie solves the mystery before Wolfe after obtaining a key clue. Though, both Wolfe (and myself for that matter) figured it out once this clue was revealed. So, for once Archie isn't the dark when the payoff comes.

The only negative thing I can say about the book is that Stout did seem to be overusing the tape recorder to catch his criminals. It played a role in The Final Deduction as well as a Nero Wolfe novella. Still, overuse of the tape recorder is a small issue in a book that has so much to offer.

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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12Nov/110

Book Review: The Final Deduction

In The Final Deduction, Wolfe is hired as insurance by a woman whose husband has been kidnapped. However, Wolfe's client is being particularly cagey about the information she'll share with Wolfe. Wolfe does manage to get a meeting with the woman's secretary who has said she heard the call from the kidnapper. Wolfe and Archie both conclude that she was part of the kidnapping plot.

After the money drop, the husband is returned alive, but soon afterwards the secretary and the hush and are both murdered while Wolfe and Archie find themselves in a spot as their client had told them not to tell about the kidnapping until 48 hours after it occurred.

However, along with trouble comes opportunity. With their duty complete, the son of their original client wants Wolfe's help to recover the half million dollars in ransom money which his mother has told him he can keep if he finds it. In exchange for this, Wolfe will get a 20% cut.

This book was a very well-balanced Nero Wolfe mystery. Plenty of Archie and Wolfe interactions, a good cast of characters in the victim's family, and a decent mystery. Stout also has some clever word play. The word "deduction" is worked throughout the book in both its meaning to tax law and its meaning to the detective.

It's also of somewhat historical interest as a peek at the world of the pre-JFK Income Tax Code. Wolfe's reason for accepting the 2nd case was that if he managed to collect, he'd work himself into the 80% Tax Bracket. At which point, it wouldn't make sense for him to take on any more work as he'd end up in the 90% bracket and only keeping a dime of every dollar earned. His clients were in the slightly higher 91% tax bracket. Both would play a key factor in the story, so you have to wrap your mind around that which can be difficult when the current top marginal rate is 36%.

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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6Nov/110

Book Review: Where There’s a Will

The family of a deceased millionaire come to Wolfe to mediate a dispute over their brother's will, which surprisingly left little to the man's wife and sisters, but left the balance to an unrelated woman. The will didn't meet many of the brother's  promises including leaving a million dollars to one sister's university.

Wolfe's job is simply to negotiate with the man's unrelated heiress, but the case takes on a whole new complexion when its learned that the millionaire has been murdered, and the only way for Wolfe to question all the suspects is to leave the Brownstone.

Archie and Wolfe are at their best in this novel,  and the mystery has a very clever solution.

The big negative of this story is that unlike in both previous and later Wolfe novels, the family is not all that interesting.  While the Hawthorne sisters are very accomplished women from a family of very accomplished people that doesn't make them interesting characters. Indeed, they are a bit flat.

Still, with Wolfe and Archie on the job and no other major snags, I'll give this one:

Rating: Satisfactory

You can find all the Nero Wolfe books in Kindle, Audiobook, and book form on our Nero Wolfe page.

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16Oct/110

Book Review: Plot It Yourself

In Plot It Yourself, Rex Stout follows the old writing axiom of, "Write what you know."

A joint writers-publishers committee turns to Wolfe to stop a plagiarism swindle. Four authors created successful novels and plays were sued by others writers who claiming that the successful works were stolen from them. The unknowns all cashed in with settlements or court victories which cost writers   and publishers in money and reputation.

Wolfe gets hold of the fraudulent manuscripts and by comparing the styles, discovers that with one exception, all of them were written by the same writer. However, when he compares that style to that of other writing by the phony claimants, he discovers that none of them wrote the fraudulent manuscripts, which means that the mastermind of the scam could be anyone and that the writers filing false claims are only shills.

Wolfe tries to beg off the case, but is persuaded to take part in a plan by the committee to pay one of the phony authors to obtain the identity of the mastermind. However, before Archie gets to him, the man is murdered much to the embarrassment of Wolfe and Archie. The body count rises quickly and so does the pressure on Wolfe to crack the case.

The murders at the center of the case were the result of Nero Wolfe bungling by failing to have a man guards the accomplices before approaching them. This seems to be a recurring theme in the Wolfe novels of the 1950s. Wolfe bungles led to deaths in If Death Ever Slept and Before Midnight. At this point, it seems to have been overdone. Master detectives shouldn't require a warning label.

Other than that, the mystery went very well. I had suspected the murderer early on, but Stout was a master at misdirecting the reader, so I'd moved on to other suspects by the end of the novel.

Wolfe was wonderfully eccentric throughout the novel. He went on strike against himself, offended his own self-esteem, and even swore not to eat meat until the case was solved. Wolfe did go a little over the top when Wolfe spent the last few pages complimenting the murderer and building their self-esteem.

The only other thing to note is that a writer, I found the whole discussion of plagiarism swindles fascinating, however I could see someone who wasn’t a writer being less thrilled with the long and involved discussion that prefaces the case.

For my part, I’ll give it a:

Rating: Satisfactory

You can find all the Nero Wolfe books in Kindle, Audiobook, and book form on our Nero Wolfe page.

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10Sep/111

Book Review: If Death Ever Slept

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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4Sep/110

Book Review: Too Many Cooks

In the first three Nero Wolfe books, Rex Stout firmly established that Wolfe rarely leaves the house. From 1937-46, Wolfe was routinely pushed out of the Brownstone by Stout with only two stories in this period allowing him to stay homebound:

  • The Red Box (1937) sent Wolfe to a clothing store to question witnesses at the behest of a client and peers in the orchid community.
  • Some Buried Caesar (1939) had Wolfe head upstate to put his orchids on display at an exposition.
  • Where There's a Will (1940): had Wolfe visit a client's house.
  • Black Orchids (1942) was the first novella collection and  saw Wolfe heading out to another flower show where a murder occurred in the first of two stories.
  • Not Quite Dead Enough (1944) featured Wolfe leaving the Brownstone in both novellas.
  • The Silent Speaker (1946): Wolfe goes to police headquarters to report to an inspector who replaced Cramer on a case.

However, it wouldn't be until the 1950s that  Wolfe was pulled as far from his home as in Too Many Cooks which sees Wolfe boarding a train to attend a convention of famous cooks in a West Virginia resort town where Wolfe had been invited as a guest of honor to speak about American contributions to fine dining. One of the great cooks, Philip Laszio is despised by his fellows for stealing recipes and for a Machivellian rise through the culinary world, and is killed with suspicion falling on the other cooks.

A wet behind the ears prosecutor asks for Wolfe's help in the case. When one of Wolfe's suggestions leads to the imprisonment of  a prestigious chef , Wolfe has to set to work to find out what happened.

This book introduced Wolfe's lifelong friend, Marco Vukcic, the owner of Rosterman's as a character. Vukcic served as a humanizing force on the Wolfe character. Vukcic was one of the few people to call Wolfe by his first name. Wolfe's sentiment for Vukcic is in full force when he's confronted by the widow of the murdered man (who was Vukcic's ex-wife) and Wolfe delivers a classic smackdown for  her ruthlessness.

Even involved in the stereotypically genteel world of cooks, there are risks. At one point in the course of his investigation, Wolfe ends up getting shot.

One controversey that surrounds the book is the use of racial epithets. This  is, after all, the South in the 1930s, and it sounds it. There are about a dozen or so uses of the "N-word" and Archie uses a only slightly less offensive term a couple of times. So, it's hardly at the Huckleberry Finn level of racial language, but like Mark Twain, Stout had a point.

Of course, this is a detective book, so the points couldn't be too fine or too preachy, and whatever point he'd have to make would have to tie in to the story. On these points, Stout succeeded. Wolfe has reason to believe that the staff know who committed the crime after hearing from a relucant witness that the killer was black.

Wolfe decides to bring the staff up into his suite for questioning. Archie thinks the entire excercise will be a waste of time, as they cops hadn't gotten anything out of them and that Wolfe wouldn't know how to communicate with blacks.

Wolfe begins his session by humbly expressing his gratitude to the men for the privilege of being able to come to America. He then learns the men's names and refers to them by their proper names unless otherwise requested. In other words, Wolfe treated them with the same courtesy and respect that he initially gives to everyone he questions. And through that, Wolfe is eventually able to get their help.

What Stout communicates to a segregated America is that the way to live together in harmony is to treat every person with equal dignity, and judge them on their character.  As Wolfe says, " ... the ideal human agreement is one in which distinctions of race and color and religion are totally disregarded." It's very powerfully done and not disruptive to the story.

Too Many Cooks is not without its flaws. The first few chapters drag a bit. However, the biggest weakness of the story is that Wolfe dominates the story line to such an extent that there's really not a whole lot for Archie to do.

Outside of a couple scenes on the train to and from New York, the action is confined to the resort, probably within a couple hundred yards of Wolfe's room. Archie is usually the focal point of the investigation with a lot of action and runing errand. Here Archie is more reactive and doesn't even get off many good lines of dialogue. Archie is about as useful and important to the plot as Captain Hastings in a Poirot book. Wolfe's next novel also took Wolfe away from the Brownstone in, Some Buried Caesar, but in that one, Stout wisely gave Archie a lot more play.

While I can't say it's a criticism, the story points to an inconsistency in the Wolfe universe. In Too Many Cooks, Wolfe prepares and delivers a lengthy speech (not fully included) on American contributions to fine dining, and at the final banquet, an all American gourmet dinner is served. Twenty years later in The Next Wintess, Wolfe commends chili as  "One of the few contributions America has to world cuisine."   One wonders why Stout changed Wolfe's mind on this point, or if Stout simply forgot Wolfe had delivered a stirring defense of American contributions to cooking.

The book also includes the recipes for the All-American gourmet meal, the preparation  of which is beyond my simple talents. (If you have cookied the recipes in this book, please share your experience in the comments.)

Overall, Stout prepared a very good recipe in Too Many Cooks, although it could have used a dash or two more of Archie Goodwin action.

Overall, I'll give it a:

Rating: Satisfactory

You can find all the Nero Wolfe books in Kindle, Audiobook, and book form on our Nero Wolfe page.

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27Aug/110

Book Review: Three for the Chair

While shopping in the thrift store, I found a 1968 Bantam Paperback copy of, Three for the Chair, a 1957 compilation of three Nero Wolfe novellas. While the book was not my planned next Nero Wolfe read, I decided to grab it cheap and enjoy the book.

There are three stories in this book and each should be reviewed in its own right.

A Window for Death:

A man who left his family under a cloud of suspicion and then made a fortune in mining, apparently dies of natural causes after returning home.  Members of the family aren't so sure, and are suspicious of the man's partner who inherited the entire mining interest. Wolfe is hired to determined whether there is enough to call the police in.

This story is very workmanlike. There's little action. The majority of the story involves Wolfe questioning witnesses in the Brownstone and the rest involves Archie doing so outside. No added deaths occur and there are no real plot twists. Inspector Cramer does not appear in the story, with A Window for Death ending with Wolfe composing a note to him. Still, the actual solution is pretty clever.

Rating: Satisfactory

Immune to Murder

At the request of an Assistant Secretary of State, Wolfe leaves the comfort of the Brownstone for a rustic fishing resort to help with sensitive oil negotiations by cooking fish for the ambassador who had specifically requested Wolfe. Wolfe hates the  locale and plans to leave after lunch. Wolfe's plans are upset when Archie discovers the Assistant Secretary of State lying dead in stream.

Given the other potential suspects (members of a diplomatic delegation who are immune to prosecution and two rich oil magnates), the District Attorney suggests absurdly that Archie was there as a hired assassin. The truth doesn't come out until the murderer does something that insult's Wolfe's vanity.

This story was adapted for television on a Nero Wolfe Mystery as the last episode and was panned by fans. In my opinion, there was nothing wrong with either the episode or the story. It was, however unfortunate to make this the last episode, as we had none of the familiar supporting characters that fans loved, plus in the context of a final episode, the solution was unsatisfying. However, in the context of a Nero Wolfe reading binge, the story represents a nice change of pace.

Rating: Very Satisfactory

Too Many Detectives

Thanks to Archie's interest in learning about wiretapping, Wolfe agrees to help a man tap his own phone. Later, Wolfe learns he was duped and the man who hired him didn't own the phone being tapped.

Wolfe's embarrassment is deepened when he's summoned to Albany and forced to endure a long car ride to discuss the matter. Wolfe and Archie to find several other detectives waiting.

When it's their turn to testify, they learn that the man who fooled them claimed they knew the wiretap was illegal. When it was time for the phony client to testify, he's found dead, and Wolfe and Archie are arrested as material witnesses.

While Archie and Wolfe are released on bail, they can't leave  the jurisdiction, a situation Wolfe can't tolerate. The only way out is for Wolfe to find the killer.

Wolfe compares notes with the other detectives and finds that all but one of them was taken in by the same scheme as Wolfe. Wolfe then gets all six detectives to share every available operative back in New York City to solve the case, leading to a surprising and satisfying solution.

This story in notable for featuring Dol Bonner. Bonner had appeared in her own novel in 1937 and also appeared in a Tecumseh Fox novel. She and Wolfe got along well which had Archie nervous as he figured that Bonner was that rare type of woman Wolfe could actually fall for. Archie even imagines a situation where Archie, Wolfe, Bonner, and Bonner's assistant Sally Colt all in the Brownstone solving cases together. Thus, even great authors have intriguing ideas occur to themwhich if tried would wreck their franchise.

As an aside, the story makes me curious to read Stout's Dol Bonner novel.

As for Too Many Detectives, it was truly a good use of an hour and deserving of a:

Rating: Very Satisfactory

Overall rating for the Collection: 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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21Aug/110

Book Review: Might as Well Be Dead

In Might as Well Be Dead, Wolfe is hired by a Nebraska businessman to find his son, Paul Herald. The older Herald had exiled his son eleven years earlier  on the belief his son had stolen $11,000 from the business but had since learned that someone else committed the theft. He turns to Wolfe as a last result after having contacted the police and submitting a classified ad to get his son's attention.

Because Herald had monogramed luggage that he took with him, Wolfe supposed  the that Paul retained the same initials and so ordered a display ad taken out, address to PH and written in a way that Wolfe felt would be more likely to gain a response as he promises to help PH clear his name of the crime he was falsely accused of without forcing him to renewing any bonds he'd renounced.

Wolfe gets a response all right because a P.H. is on trial for murder and several people think Wolfe is going to intervene in the Peter Hayes murder trial. Looking at the newspaper picture, both Wolfe and Archie dismiss the possibility of Peter Hayes being Paul Herald, but after Hayes' attorney pays the brownstone a visit, Archie believes an in-person examination is in order. When Archie sees Hayes' expression when found guilty, he's almost certain that Hayes and Herald are one and the same.

With the help of Herald's lawyer, Archie gets an in-person interview that cinches it, but Herald begs Archie not to reveal his true identity for fear of the pain it would cause his mother and sisters.

Wolfe faces a dilemma and decides not to tell his client but to press ahead, find the truth, clear Paul Herald of the crime and then report to his client once he's cleared his son.

What follows is an amazing series of twists and surprises, of mysteries inside mysteries that represent the series at its best. Every recurring character is in top form, particularly Wolfe.  Wolfe has no relapses to speak of, though he does reach a point where he believes that he's found enough information so the police can wrap it up, but Cramer lets him know after a few days that's not the case.

The story takes on an added human element with the murder of a detective working for Wolfe, Johnny Keems. Might as Well Be Dead showcases Wolfe's humanity and sense of justice is on full display (as much as it ever is) right up and to Wolfe's magnanimous gesture at the end of the book.

If this had been a third season of Nero Wolfe, this would have been a worthy project to adapt. Though, they would probably have to work with the scene where Archie and Saul Panzer find the final clue due to the grittiness of the scene, but it could be done. This book was adapted for the William Conrad Nero Wolfe series in the 1980s.

Might as Well Be Dead is also interesting for the number of times that a prior Wolfe novel is mentioned. Archie brings up an incident from Fer-de-Lance to a couple different witnesses. Stebens mentions one  from, The Red Box. And Archie tells us that the kids in the neighborhood have viewed Wolfe's house with suspicion since, in The Golden Spiders, twelve year old Pete Drosos obtained a meeting with Wolfe and was then murdered.

These references were a reminder that 23 books into the Wolfe canon, the series was clearly becoming an American Cliassic, and Might As Well Be Dead is a crowning achievement.

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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