No one can legitimately call himself a fan of murder mysteries without being familiar with Nero Wolfe. The Wolfe books harken back to the days of the potboilers when detectives were dicks, the gorgeous women were dames with good front sections, and there was none of this folderol about character development and conflicted emotions or troubled personal relationships. The plots, and to some extent Wolfe himself, are Sherlockian. Wolfe, brusque, iconoclastic, and famous for his deductive powers, sits his seventh of a ton in his New York penthouse and waits for cases to come to him. And come they do, in this case, with a client coming to hire him to solve the murder of his daughter. More murders ensue.
The Wolfe stories are narrated by Archie Goodwin, the Dr. Watson equivalent, who is Wolfe’s right-hand man. Archie is a smart-alecky young fellow, quick with his wit, his fists, and the ladies. Almost all of the action in the story is really Archie’s, with Wolfe making only rare appearances to exhort Archie to “bring me something” and on rare occasions, to dole out a begrudging “satisfactory.” The rest of the time Wolfe can be found in his plant rooms tending to his orchids or dining on one of the delicacies prepared by his chef, Fritz.
Wolfe’s relationship with the police is prickly at best, very much like that of Holmes with Scotland Yard. Cliché it may be, but the mystery is not fully resolved until Wolfe calls all parties to his penthouse for the big reveal, which, of course, only he has deduced.
I’ve read a couple of Nero Wolfe books in the past, probably more than a decade ago, and their formulaic nature deters me from reading them with any frequency, but it’s a good formula and I thoroughly enjoyed this one.