The Second Confession (Nero Wolfe #15) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Second Confession
Series: Nero Wolfe #15
Author: Rex Stout
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 199
Words: 73K

★★★✬☆

Trouble in Triplicate (Nero Wolfe #14) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Trouble in Triplicate
Series: Nero Wolfe #14
Author: Rex Stout
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 159
Words: 71K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

BEFORE I DIE:

The meat shortage of 1946[1] has drastically affected the menu at Wolfe’s dining room table and left him in a foul mood. A notorious gangster, Dazy Perrit, arrives at the brownstone to enlist Wolfe’s help and, over Archie’s protests, Wolfe invites him inside. Archie fears that Perrit will tell Wolfe something that Wolfe would prefer not to know, but Wolfe wants meat and thinks that Perrit’s black market connections might enable him to get it.

Perrit gives Archie a phone number to call for a possible supply of meat, and then tells Wolfe his problem. He has a daughter, whose existence and identity he has kept secret in order to protect her from his enemies. One of them, Thumbs Meeker, has recently let Perrit know that his daughter’s existence is no longer a secret; however, he does not know her name or location. Perrit has found a grifter named Angelina Murphy who is on the run from authorities in Utah, and has installed her as his daughter in his Fifth Avenue penthouse in an attempt to draw attention away from his real daughter. Angelina has begun to blackmail Perrit, demanding large sums of money in exchange for keeping his secret, and Perrit wants to hire Wolfe to make her stop.

Wolfe dispatches Archie to make contact with Perrit’s real daughter, Beulah Page. Archie learns that Beulah is engaged to marry a law student named Morton Schane and invites them both to dinner at Wolfe’s house. Wolfe uses the occasion to acquaint himself with the couple’s plans and concerns. Later that night, after Beulah and Schane have left, Angelina arrives for an appointment with Wolfe. He threatens to reveal her whereabouts to the Utah authorities unless she gives him 90% of any further money she extorts from Perrit. Angelina responds by threatening to disclose that she is not Perrit’s daughter, but Wolfe rebuffs her, saying that the information will be of no personal worry to him.

As Archie escorts Angelina home, she is killed in a drive-by shooting outside her apartment building. Archie is taken into custody, questioned, and released; when he reaches the brownstone, Perrit and one of his thugs are waiting to talk to him. These two men are killed in a second drive-by. Later that day, Perrit’s lawyer, L.A. Schwartz, pays a visit to Wolfe with news that he has been named executor of Perrit’s estate and entrusted with documents that prove Beulah’s parentage. Wolfe accepts the responsibility — and the $50,000 fee that goes with it — and schedules an appointment with Beulah, Schane, and Schwartz.

The meeting is further joined by Saul Panzer, Meeker, and an associate of Perrit’s named Fabian. Wolfe reveals Schane as the murderer, having become suspicious at the dinner after Schane made a nonsense comment about a simple point of law. Schane had been in league with Angelina in Utah, but decided to focus on Beulah instead after coming to New York, and Perrit had figured out what he was doing. The fingerprints he left on his wineglass at dinner confirm his identity and criminal background. Schane shoots at the group but misses, and Saul, Fabian, and Meeker return fire, with Saul’s bullet killing Schane.

Six days later, the meat shortage ends. Archie comments to Wolfe on the way in which Wolfe orchestrated the meeting to bring about Schane’s death without leading to criminal charges being filed against anyone else present, then leaves for a date with Beulah.

HELP WANTED, MALE

Publisher Ben Jensen pays a visit to Wolfe’s office, intent on buying protection for himself after receiving a death threat in the mail. [1] Wolfe declines the offer, giving Jensen some advice on how to look out for his own safety, and Archie provides him with the name of an agency that does bodyguard work. Jensen had been involved in one of Wolfe’s earlier cases,[2] in which an Army captain named Peter Root had offered to sell him classified information. Root was brought before a court martial and sentenced to three years in prison.

The following morning’s newspaper carries a report that both Jensen and the bodyguard he hired have been shot and killed; Wolfe denies to Inspector Cramer that he is taking any interest in the case. That day’s mail brings a death threat addressed to Wolfe, identical to the one Jensen received. Since the Root case is all that Wolfe and Jensen had in common, Wolfe and Archie track down current information on everyone connected to it, including Root’s family and fiancée, Jane Geer. Archie hurries to fill his end of the order before he must leave for a meeting in Washington, D.C. with his superiors in Army Intelligence. He locates Jane and brings her to the brownstone, but they are both surprised to find Jensen’s son Emil—an Army major—waiting at the door. Wolfe does not come down to meet them, but instead orders Archie over the in-house telephone to send them away.

While in Washington, Archie notices a help-wanted advertisement in a New York paper, calling for male applicants who are the same height and weight as Wolfe. Sneaking out of his meeting and hurrying back to Manhattan, Archie is surprised to see someone other than Wolfe in the detective’s custom-built chair. Wolfe introduces the man as H.H. Hackett, who has responded to the ad and is being paid $100 per day to impersonate him at home and in public. He is using Hackett as a decoy to draw the fire of would-be killers so that he can determine who might want him dead.

Wolfe has determined, from information provided by Army Intelligence, that Root and his parents had no apparent involvement in the murders. He asks Archie to bring Jane in for an interview, with Hackett doubling for him while he observes from the peephole in the office wall. Archie now understands why Wolfe sent her away earlier; he did not want her to see him in person so that she would be fooled by Hackett as a stand-in. Jane and Emil arrive for the appointment together, having developed a close relationship since Archie last saw them. He puts them in the front room and goes to consult with Wolfe about Emil’s unexpected presence, but the sound of a gunshot startles everyone.

Rushing into the office, Archie finds that a bullet has been fired through Wolfe’s chair and into the wall behind it, apparently from the front room, and that Hackett’s ear is nicked. Archie finds an old, recently fired revolver hidden in the front room, and Wolfe reveals himself to the visitors and takes charge. He calls Cramer to inform him about the weapon, which turns out to be the one that killed Jensen and the bodyguard, and pits Jane and Emil against each other in an effort to draw out the killer. However, the case turns in a new direction when he notices a cushion missing from the front room’s couch. It is soon found in the bottom drawer of Wolfe’s desk; this discovery, along with the fact that one of the guns in Archie’s desk has been recently fired, allows him to solve the case and turn the culprit over to Cramer.

The murderer is Hackett, actually Root’s father Thomas, bent on revenge against everyone he blames for his son’s imprisonment. After killing Jensen and the bodyguard, and sending the death threat to Wolfe, he responded to Wolfe’s ad and smuggled the murder weapon inside. During a time when he was alone in the office, he took a cushion from the couch, wrapped it around the gun to muffle the report, and fired a shot through the chair and into the wall. He hid the cushion in the desk and the gun in the front room, and made sure to sit in the chair so that his head would cover the bullet hole. While Jane and Emil were waiting in the front room, he took a gun from Archie’s desk, fired into the cushion, and used a pocketknife to cut a gash in his ear before returning the gun. Given one more day, Hackett/Thomas would have been able to kill Wolfe and focus suspicion on Jane and Emil.

INSTEAD OF EVIDENCE

Eugene R. Poor, co-owner of a novelty products company, and his wife, Martha, bring an unusual problem to Wolfe. Poor believes that his business partner, Conroy Blaney, is going to kill him and take full control of the company; he wants Wolfe to ensure that justice is done on Blaney when it happens. Martha has tried to persuade Poor to sell his share of the company to Blaney, without success, but Poor is determined to see his own murderer punished. Wolfe accepts a $5,000 fee, agreeing only to inform the police of what Poor has told him if Poor dies within one year.

Helen Vardis had arrived just after the police got there. She said she had come to see Poor on a confidential matter.

That evening, Inspector Cramer calls Wolfe with news that Poor is dead, his head blown apart by an exploding cigar in his own apartment. Visiting the scene, Archie learns from Martha that she and Poor had started off to visit Blaney at his estate in White Plains for a business discussion, but Poor had decided during the trip not to go. She left him at a tavern along the way, went to the meeting alone, and picked him up on the return trip. Once back in the apartment, he had opened a fresh box of cigars and lit one, but it exploded with great force and killed him. Archie also meets Joe Groll, the foreman at the company’s factory, and Helen Vardis, an employee. Blaney also arrives at the scene and is shocked to see Poor’s remains.

The next day, Cramer brings news to Wolfe that every cigar in that box had been rigged with a small but powerful explosive capsule, manufactured for military use by a different company, and that two of Martha’s hairs were found inside. Wolfe considers this to be evidence against her involvement, since a person involved in such painstaking work would be careful not to leave any traces. Blaney visits the brownstone as well to argue for his own innocence, but his annoying manner soon drives Wolfe to send him away. Wolfe calls Saul Panzer in to investigate, having taken an interest in finding photographs of Poor when he was alive, and Archie catches up to Groll for a talk and realizes that Helen has been following them. The three search the company offices and find several hiding places, one of which contains four explosive capsules.

At the brownstone, Wolfe tests one of the capsules by placing it in a coffee percolator and lighting its fuse; it explodes violently enough to damage the percolator and hurl its lid across the office, barely missing him. Wolfe dispatches Archie to take two of the others to Cramer, who threatens to get a warrant for the last one. Wolfe takes a sudden interest in a newspaper article about a man found dead in White Plains with his head crushed, and calls the local district attorney to confirm his identity as Arthur Howell, an employee of the company that had manufactured the capsules. Once the body has been identified, Wolfe sends Archie to see Martha with a photograph of Poor (obtained by Saul) that has the last capsule taped to it. Archie warns Martha that he has orders to deliver her to either Wolfe or the police, but she instead kills herself by putting the capsule in her mouth and setting it off.

A furious Cramer confronts Wolfe at the brownstone, but Wolfe maintains that he has broken no laws in prodding Martha to suicide. He had realized that the man who came to see him was an impostor, since Poor was an experienced cigar smoker and the man had barely been able to light one properly. Martha chose Howell for her plot to kill her husband because he bore a strong resemblance to Poor, and she persuaded him to give her some of the capsules so she could spike Poor’s cigars. During her supposed meeting with Blaney in White Plains, she met with Howell and killed him, running over his head with her car. The photograph that Saul obtained was actually of Howell, but Archie mistook it as one of Poor because he did not know of Howell’s existence at the time.

Cramer points out that it was Martha who paid Wolfe the $5,000, but Wolfe counters by saying that Poor got his money’s worth even if he did not directly pay the fee.

My Thoughts:

For whatever reason, the novels about Wolfe that are actually 3 novellas just never work quite as well for me as a full novel.

I didn’t catch on, until I was writing this post and copied the info from Wikipedia, that each story was about a person impersonating someone else. I think part of that is that I don’t try to solve the mystery ahead of time in books like this. I don’t care who did it or why. Just tell me and give me some interesting character interactions along the way.

And dang, the way everybody carries pistols around in their pockets? Sign me up for some of that please. None of this “concealed carry” license nonsense. Not that my state has that nonsense anymore, but there’s enough floating around the rest of the country to make up for it, le sigh.

Part of me wonders how Archie and Wolfe have gotten on so well together for so long. I would have shot Wolfe by now or at least put dog poop in one of his favorite dishes, thus prompting him to shoot me. The friendship and the tension are not something I have first hand experience with, as anyone who bothered me as much as Wolfe bothers Archie, I would have simply walked away from without another word. But that tension, as I’ve written before, is what makes these books. The murders themselves are usually pretty ho-hum and pedestrian but how everyone interacts is what is the peas day resistance. And Freedom Fries. Take that, french language!

Once again, I am pleased with another Nero Wolfe book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Return of Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock Holmes #5) ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Return of Sherlock Holmes
Series: Sherlock Holmes #5
Author: Arthur Doyle
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 420
Words: 114K



Synopsis:

Table of Contents

“The Adventure of the Empty House”

“The Adventure of the Norwood Builder”

“The Adventure of the Dancing Men”

“The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist”

“The Adventure of the Priory School”

“The Adventure of Black Peter”

“The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton”

“The Adventure of the Six Napoleons”

“The Adventure of the Three Students”

“The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez”

“The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter”

“The Adventure of the Abbey Grange”

“The Adventure of the Second Stain”

My Thoughts:

While Sherlock returns from what should have been certain death, in this collection, it wasn’t the fantastic return it should have been. Doyle seems to have run out of vim and vigor and most of these stories felt very plodd’y. To the point he abandons all continuity and has Sherlock and Watson once again living at 221B Baker Street. Mrs Watson seems to have been disappeared, to the point where I had to wonder why Doyle had ever introduced her in the first place.

All of these were new to me except for the Dancing Men and even that I had forgotten pretty much everything except that the dancing men were a code. With all new (to me) stories, I have to admit I was hoping for a bit more punch and some rock-em-sock-em robot action. What I got was workmanlike stories written to pay the bills.

Personally, I don’t see why “I” should be punished by Doyle’s bad attitude; “I” didn’t ask him to write more Sherlock. He did that all on his own because going out and earning a living with his hands was too much for the namby-pamby wuss. He should have become a land surveyor, that’d put hair on his chest, pennies in his pocket and mush on the table. But nope, instead he churns out spiritless stories and the hoi poloi of his time are too stupid to even reject them. So here I am, left with a legacy of spiritless stupidity. My goodness, the stuff I put up with just to write reviews. And I’m not even getting paid. And if I was getting paid, I’d spit in the eye of the company paying me because only book hookers write reviews for money.

Ok, enough of that.

Despite my complaining, there was nothing bad about this collection. It just didn’t feel inspired and for a 400+ page book, you a little inspiration to keep that plodd’y feeling away.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Third Lynx (Quadrail #2) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Third Lynx
Series: Quadrail #2
Authors: Timothy Zahn
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 266
Words: 99.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org & Me

The Third Lynx starts several months after the events of Night Train to Rigel. Having destroyed the hub world of the Modhri, Frank Campton is riding the Quadrail with Bayta, his traveling companion and friend, when a murder occurs on the Quadrail car which he is traveling on. The victim is a middle-aged man who had proposed a deal to Compton a few hours before.

Turns out some valuable art pieces of an unknown race are actually parts of a weapon that can go undetected through the Quadrail sensors. Frank and Bayta must capture the remaining pieces so it can’t be reverse engineered. They stop the pieces from falling into the hands of the Modhri’s walkers, only to discover there is a whole planet filled with the weapons, and not only weapons, but spaceships as well.

My Thoughts:

When I originally read this back in ’08 I stated that I hoped Zahn would dig a little deeper into the universe he’d created here. Having read the whole series I know he didn’t but oddly enough, knowing that actually allowed me to enjoy this a bit more this time around.

I wasn’t worried about trying to read a cracking fantastic scifi detective story. I just had to enjoy a decent sf detective who was as laid back as if he’d been smoking blunts his whole life. Despite many protestations to the contrary, at no time did Frank Compton ever come across as worried or afraid. I’m afraid he was lit to the max.

Whatever relationship Zahn was trying to create between Frank and Bayta came across as weird, uncomfortable and just plain awkward. It felt like watching two 13 year olds trying to talk to each other. It was almost as uncomfortable to read about as it seemed to be for them to actually do.

And I still had a good time reading this. Weird huh?

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

And Be A Villain (Nero Wolfe #13) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: And Be A Villain
Series: Nero Wolfe #13
Author: Rex Stout
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 207
Words: 65K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Cyril Orchard, the publisher of the weekly horse racing sheet Track Almanac, is poisoned with cyanide during a live soft drink commercial on a popular radio talk show. A media sensation, the case attracts the attention of Nero Wolfe, who is facing a crippling income tax bill, and Archie Goodwin is dispatched to convince the producers and sponsors to hire Wolfe to investigate the crime. The police have identified several suspects, including the show’s host Madeline Fraser; her business manager, friend and former sister-in-law Deborah Koppel; her on-air side-kick Bill Meadows; Tully Strong and Nathan Straub, representatives of the show’s sponsors; script-writer Elinor Vance; Nancylee Shepherd, the head of Fraser’s fan-club; and F.O. Savarese, an assistant professor of mathematics and the show’s other guest.

Although his initial investigations seem unpromising, Wolfe eventually learns that a separate bottle of the beverage being advertised was provided for Fraser, identified with tape around the neck. When pressed, the producers admit that Fraser is unable to drink the beverage she was advertising because it gives her indigestion, and instead drinks iced coffee from the bottle instead. As the marked bottle was the one containing the poison, this suggests that Fraser was the intended victim instead of Orchard.

Wolfe passes this information on to Inspector Cramer, seeing this as an opportunity to claim his fee without further work. When the press — prompted by Archie — criticises him for his lack of effort, however, he is stung into further action but, to Archie’s surprise, begins investigating a different murder. Beula Poole, the publisher of an independent political and economics journal, has been shot dead in her offices days before. Although there is no apparent connection between the crimes, Wolfe is skeptical that two independent publishers would be murdered within weeks of each other without any link. His investigations reveal that the magazines were in fact the front for a sophisticated blackmail operation which targeted its victims using the threat of slander to compel them to purchase subscriptions for a year. This, in turn, brings Wolfe into contact with Arnold Zeck, the shadowy and powerful criminal mastermind behind the operation, who warns Wolfe not to interfere in his affairs.

After the blackmail story is published Walter Anderson, the president of the soft drink company, tries to end Wolfe’s investigations by paying him off and announcing that his company is withdrawing sponsorship from Fraser’s show. With no further leads, Wolfe sends Archie to Fraser and her entourage with a fake letter implicating Elinor Vance in order to try and shake a response out of the suspects. During the meeting, Deborah Koppel dies after eating a piece of candy laced with cyanide. Discovering the letter on Archie, the police threaten to charge him with obstructing justice, but they are interrupted by a phone call from a rival radio station. Wolfe has announced that he knows the identity of the murderer and threatens to reveal it on-air that night.

To avoid humiliation, the charges against Archie are dismissed and Wolfe is permitted to reveal the identity of the murderer in his office. Once the suspects have arrived, Wolfe presses Anderson to reveal the reason he tried to terminate his contract with Wolfe and Fraser’s show. Anderson had discovered that Madeline Fraser had received blackmail letters, and it is revealed that Fraser was being accused of murdering her husband years before. However, while the blackmail syndicate had previously created false claims about their victims to slander them, in this case they had unwittingly stumbled upon the truth – Fraser had in fact murdered her husband. Fraser murdered Orchard and Poole to conceal her secret, and Koppel when she began to suspect the truth. Fraser is arrested and charged with murder. The novel ends with Wolfe receiving a phone call from Zeck, congratulating him on solving the case — and warning him not to interfere in the crime lord’s affairs.

My Thoughts:

The righteousness of the blameless keeps his way straight,
but the wicked falls by his own wickedness.
~Proverbs 11:5 (English Standard Version)

This Bible verse is the first thing that sprang to my mind when thinking about reviewing this book. The second part of the verse anyway. Fake blackmailers stumble upon a real crime and pay the consequences and the criminal gets hers as well. Evil devouring itself.

This was a book of several crimes that appeared unconnected but ended up all being part of one big crime. It reminded me very much of Dan Willis and his urban fantasy series The Arcane Casebook featuring Alex Lockerby. In fact, thinking about it, I suspect that Willis has read enough of Rex Stout to be influenced in his own writing. That’s really neither here nor there, but it was something else that popped into my brain while reading this story.

There was also a LOT of negative interaction between Archie and Wolfe this time around. Mainly because Archie deals with the bills and Wolfe is just lazy. I am now curious what a book about each of them on their own would be like. I am being careful about that wish though, because that very interaction, whether positive or negative, is what drives my interest a lot of the time.

Overall, another good entry in the Nero Wolfe series and I’m happy with what I read.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock Holmes #4) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
Series: Sherlock Holmes #4
Author: Arthur Doyle
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 322
Words: 87K



Synopsis:

Table of Contents

Silver Blaze

The Yellow Face

The Stock-broker’s Clerk

The “Gloria Scott”

The Musgrave Ritual

The Reigate Puzzle

The Crooked Man

The Resident Patient

The Greek Interpreter

The Naval Treaty

The Final Problem

My Thoughts:

This is the book where Sherlock Holmes so infamously dies. I say infamously because apparently Doyle had the spine of a jellyfish and when the bills came knocking he immediately caved, resurrected Holmes and lived off of his creation. He SHOULD have created another character, called Berlahp Sax and used him instead. Whatever. Doyle is dead so he won’t be listening to any advice I might have had for him.

I enjoyed this more than the previous “Adventures of…” and I think that is because I am not sure if I’ve ever actually read this book or not. I’m pretty sure I read all of Sherlock in highschool but I really can’t remember. So this was all brand new stories to me. That makes a huge difference.

Moriarty is introduced in the final story and everything concerning him takes place in that one short story. None of this silly Long Story Arc building up the dramatic tension. He’s a bad guy, Sherlock clobbers him, metaphorically speaking, and eventually they go mano-a-mano and fall over a cliff. It was a great ending to the story of Sherlock. Personally, if there had been no more Sherlock stories I would have been perfectly happy with how things turned out.

Since that is not how things will be however, I am just as pleased to go on reading more stories about Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Night Train to Rigel (Quadrail #1) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Night Train to Rigel
Series: Quadrail #1
Authors: Timothy Zahn
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 279
Words: 105.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

The story starts with former government agent, Frank Compton, meeting a young man who drops dead at his feet. Compton finds a ticket to a strange, interstellar train called the Quadrail. During Compton’s ride on the Quadrail he falls asleep, and wakes up in the custody of the spiders, the operators of the Quadrail. The Spiders explain to Compton their worries of a weapon of mass destruction, which may be able to bypass their Quadrail security. Compton agrees to help, and is given a pass for the Quadrails and they assign him a traveling companion named Bayta, who has a strange talent for being telepathic in her communication to the Spiders.

Frank Compton discovers the power behind the Quadrail system: an ancient civilization called the Chahwyn. On the course of his travels on the Quadrail, he learns of the existence of the Modhri: the equally ancient enemy of the Chahwyn. The Modhri has its mind bent on controlling the galaxy.

My Thoughts:

When I read this originally back in 2006 I was still under the impression of my youthful foray into Zahn and thought he was an exciting and blockbuster of an author. As such, I didn’t enjoy this back then as I was still expecting something from Zahn that he had never given. That something is excitement. I have come to realize that Zahn is a dull writer. He has fantastic ideas, writes correctly and is an absolute work horse, but you’ll never come out of one of his books pumping your fist and screaming “Oh yeah, that was AWESOME!” If you do, well, I’m guessing either you are 12 years old or your life is even more boring than mine.

So with all of that whininess, it was just to explain that I went into this re-read with a much more accurate set of expectations. I wasn’t disappointed. I read a good Future Detective story with lots of talking points and just enough barely there action to keep me awake. Having read much of the “mystery” genre, and specifically the “detective mystery” genre, this made a lot more sense. Didn’t make it any more exciting, but it did make sense.

Having bumped this up 1/2star, I think I’m going to go through the entire series. I wasn’t sure when I started, but I did enjoy this enough to warrant looking at the other books.

I’m using the original cover for this review. In ’06 I remarked how ugly it was. It still is, isn’t it? I know it’s hard to see in that little pix, but sandy colored nobodies without an ounce of attraction to them isn’t going to draw the readers in. HOWEVER, I was looking for a different cover and the new one is even worse, if you can believe it:

How boring and unattractive is THAT?!? Publishers certainly do move in Mysterious Ways….

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Too Many Women (Nero Wolfe #12) ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Too Many Women
Series: Nero Wolfe #12
Author: Rex Stout
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 213
Words: 73.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

When a major engineering corporation conducts a survey into high employee turnover, a report is returned claiming that Waldo Moore, an employee recently killed in what was believed to be a hit-and-run accident, was murdered. The company president, Jasper Pine, approaches Nero Wolfe and hires him to find out whether this claim is true. Archie Goodwin is sent undercover as an outside consultant and assigned to investigate the stock department, where Moore worked, and is amazed to discover 500 beautiful women employed as secretaries and assistants.

Archie discovers that Moore was notorious among the employees as a lothario but had become engaged to Hester Livsey, a stenographer. He quickly identifies numerous possible suspects for Moore’s murder — in addition to Livsey, these include Rosa Bendini, who had enjoyed a dalliance with Moore; Bendini’s jealous estranged husband Harold Anthony; Gwynne Ferris, who had tried to seduce Moore but was rebuffed; Benjamin Frenkel, a supervisor who had developed feelings for Ferris and had been rebuffed; and Sumner Hoff, a hot-headed technical advisor who had gotten into a physical fight with Moore, which was believed to be over Livsey. As gossip begins to spread among the employees about Archie’s true mission, he begins to clash with Kerr Naylor, the eccentric and unpleasant department supervisor who lodged the initial report claiming that Moore was murdered.

During one confrontation, Naylor reveals that he knows Archie’s true identity, and that Moore had been given his job due to the intervention of Naylor’s sister Cecily, who is also married to Jasper Pine. Naylor and Cecily are the children of one of the founders of the company, and Naylor resents Pine being promoted over him. Naylor also claims that he knows the identity of Moore’s murderer, but when Archie reveals this in a report to the company directors he changes his story and claims Archie was lying. Cecily Pine meets with Wolfe, asking him to drop the investigation.

When an article about Wolfe’s investigation appears in the newspapers, Inspector Cramer confronts Wolfe in his office about what he knows. The increasingly heated and childish argument is interrupted by a phone call for Cramer; Kerr Naylor has been found dead, killed in a seeming hit-and-run accident in exactly the same manner and location that Waldo Moore had been found. The similarity of the deaths and the location remove any doubt that both men have been the victim of homicide. Wolfe had previously assigned Saul Panzer to shadow Naylor and, while Saul had lost the tail before Naylor’s murder, Saul managed to witness Naylor arguing with Hester Livsey hours before his death, with Sumner Hoff also present at the scene.

The company directors hire Wolfe to solve the murder of Kerr Naylor in addition to Waldo Moore. Archie hints to Livsey that he is aware of her meeting with Naylor prior to his death, and her suspicious reaction convinces him that she knows even more of the matter than she has let on. Archie persuades her to come to Wolfe’s office for an interview, but Sumner Hoff tags along, suspicious and confrontational towards both Archie and Wolfe. When Wolfe challenges them regarding her meeting with Naylor, both claim that they were with each other at the time, concocting an overly detailed story as corroboration. While the lie is obvious, it is also sufficiently unbreakable to completely stall the investigation.

Insulted by the transparency of Livsey’s lie, Wolfe concocts a plan to expose the truth. Archie stages a meeting with Livsey which, with Archie’s prodding, quickly results in the rumour spreading that Livsey knows the identity of the murderer. Livsey eventually cracks under the pressure and insists that she will reveal the truth to anyone other than Jasper Pine. Archie convinces her to accompany him to the brownstone for her protection, where Wolfe summons Cecily Pine by informing her that he knows who the murderer is.

When she arrives, Cecily Pine confirms Wolfe’s suspicions—the murderer was her husband, Jasper Pine. Pine and Livsey had begun a clandestine affair, but Pine had become increasingly obsessed with her. Although unbothered by the actual affair, Cecily had begun to worry that her husband’s obsession was threatening their comfortable lifestyle, and so persuaded Moore to seduce Livsey away from her husband. When Moore and Livsey ended up falling in love, Pine was driven to a jealous rage and murdered Moore. Cecily confided in her brother, and Naylor used the information to try and force Pine out of the company presidency and seize it for himself, but Pine murdered him.

Before the authorities can be notified, Wolfe receives news that Jasper Pine has committed suicide. Wolfe and Archie realise that Cecily contacted her husband before meeting Wolfe, and manipulated him into taking his own life. The investigation is closed, and Archie ends the novel by arranging a simultaneous date with Hester Livsey, Rosa Bendini and Gwynne Ferris.

My Thoughts:

I did not enjoy this as much as some of the other Nero Wolfe books I’ve read. A big part of it is that Archie gets involved with 3 different women and one of them is married and he knows it and it doesn’t change his attitude or behavior. The other part is that Wolfe is just crabby the whole time because of all the women and he’s not very brilliant at all in my opinion. Plus, the guy who kicks the whole thing off, Kerr Naylor, is the worst sort of jackass. I wanted to reach into the book and punch him until he pooped his teeth out. Thankfully, he’s killed, so I felt some satisfaction, even if it wasn’t me doing the killing.

Overall, this felt mediocre and neither Wolfe or Archie came across as interesting as they have previously. If this had been my first Nero Wolfe book I’d probably not pick up another. Thankfully, with this being #12 in the series, there’s a lot of good will built up by all the great books that came before to tide me over.

Definitely NOT the place to start your exploration of Rex Stout. He’s written much better Nero Wolfe adventures, so I’d recommend starting at the beginning. I’m just chalking this up to Stout having a mediocre writing day.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock Holmes #3) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Series: Sherlock Holmes #3
Author: Arthur Doyle
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 360
Words: 104K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

“A Scandal in Bohemia” July 1891

The King of Bohemia engages Holmes to recover an indiscreet photograph showing him with the renowned beauty, adventuress and opera singer Irene Adler‍—‌the revelation of which would derail his marriage to a daughter of the King of Scandinavia. In disguise, Holmes witnesses Adler marry the man she truly loves, then by means of an elaborate stratagem discovers the photograph’s hiding place. But when Holmes and the king return to retrieve the photo, they find Adler has fled the country with it, leaving behind a letter for Holmes and a portrait of herself for the King. The king allows Holmes to retain the portrait as a souvenir.

“The Red-Headed League” August 1891

Jabez Wilson, a pawnbroker, consults Holmes about a job, gained only because of his red hair, which took him away from his shop for long periods each day; the job for to simply copy the Encyclopædia Britannica. After eight weeks, he was suddenly informed that the job ended. After some investigation at Wilson’s shop, Holmes contacts a police inspector and the manager of a nearby bank. With Watson, they hide in the bank vault and catch two thieves who had dug a tunnel from the shop while Wilson was at the decoy copying job.

“A Case of Identity” September 1891

Against the wishes of her stepfather, Mary Sutherland has become engaged to Hosmer Angel. On the morning of their wedding Hosmer elicits a promise that Mary will remain faithful to him “even if something quite unforeseen” occurs, then mysteriously disappears en route to the church. Holmes deduces that Hosmer was Mary’s stepfather in disguise, the charade a bid to keep Mary a spinster and thus maintain access to her inheritance. Holmes does not reveal the truth to Mary because “There is danger for him who taketh the tiger cub, and danger also for whoso snatches a delusion from a woman”; he had already advised her to put the matter behind her, though she responded that Hosmer “shall find me ready when he comes back.” At the end, Mary’s stepfather escapes and Sherlock Holmes predicts he will commit more crimes.

“The Boscombe Valley Mystery” October 1891

Inspector Lestrade asks for Holmes’s help after Charles McCarthy is murdered, and his son, James, is implicated. McCarthy, and another local landowner, John Turner, are both Australian expatriates, and Lestrade was originally engaged by Turner’s daughter, Alice, who believes James is innocent. Holmes interviews James, and then inspects the scene of the murder, deducing a third man was present. Realising Holmes has solved the case, Turner confesses to the crime, revealing that McCarthy was blackmailing him due to Turner’s criminal past. Holmes does not reveal the crime, but secures James’s release because of the presence of a third person at the crime scene.

“The Five Orange Pips” November 1891

John Openshaw tells Holmes that in 1883 his uncle died two months after receiving a letter inscribed “K.K.K.” with five orange pips enclosed, and that in 1885 his father died soon after receiving a similar letter; now Openshaw himself has received such a letter. Holmes tells him to do as the letter asks and leave a diary page, which Holmes deduces is connected to the Ku Klux Klan, on the garden sundial. Openshaw is killed before he can do so, but Holmes discovers the killers have been travelling on a sailing ship, and sends the captain a letter with five orange pips. The ship is lost at sea.

“The Man with the Twisted Lip” December 1891

Neville St. Clair, a respectable businessman, has disappeared and his wife claims she saw him at the upper window of an opium den. Rushing upstairs to the room she found only a beggar who denied any knowledge of St. Clair – whose clothes are later found in the room, and his coat, laden with coins, in the River Thames outside the window. The beggar is arrested, but a few days later St. Clair’s wife receives a letter from her husband. Holmes concludes, then proves, that the beggar is actually St. Clair in disguise; he confesses that he has been leading a double life as a beggar, making more money that way than in his nominal work.

“The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle” January 1892

A “Blue Carbuncle” is stolen from a hotel suite, and a former felon is soon arrested. However, an acquaintance of Holmes discovers the carbuncle in the throat of a Christmas goose. Holmes traces the owner of the goose, but soon determines that he was not the thief by offering him a replacement goose. The detective continues his search, first to an inn and then a dealer in Covent Garden. The dealer refuses to provide Holmes with information about the source of the goose, but Holmes observes another man trying to find the same information, and confronts him. The man, the head attendant at the hotel, confesses to his crime. Holmes allows him to remain free, arguing that prison could make him a hardened criminal later.

“The Adventure of the Speckled Band” February 1892

Helen Stoner worries her stepfather may be trying to kill her after he contrives to move her to the bedroom where her sister had died two years earlier, shortly before her wedding. Stoner is herself now engaged, and Holmes learns that her stepfather’s annuity (from the estate of his wife‍—‌Stoner’s mother) would be greatly reduced if either sister married. During a late-night investigation of the bedroom, Holmes and Watson discover a dummy bell-pull near a ventilator. As they lie in wait a whistle sounds, then a snake appears through the ventilator. Holmes attacks the snake with his riding crop; it retreats to the next room, where it attacks and kills Stoner’s stepfather.

“The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb” March 1892

An engineer, Victor Hatherley, attends Dr Watson’s surgery after his thumb is chopped off, and recounts his tale to Watson and Holmes. Hatherley had been hired for 50 guineas to repair a machine he was told compressed Fuller’s earth into bricks. Hatherley was told to keep the job confidential, and was transported to the job in a carriage with frosted glass, to keep the location secret. He was shown the press, but on closer inspection discovered a “crust of metallic deposit” on the press, and he suspected it was not being used for compressing Fuller’s earth. He confronted his employer, who attacked him, and during his escape his thumb is chopped off. Holmes deduces that the press is being used to produce counterfeit coins, and works out its location. However, when they arrive, the house is on fire, and the criminals have escaped.

“The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor” April 1892

Lord Robert St. Simon’s new American bride, Hatty Doran, has disappeared almost immediately after the wedding. The servants had prevented an old love interest of his from forcing her way into the wedding breakfast, Hatty had been seen in whispered conversation with her maid, and Inspector Lestrade arrives with the news that Hatty’s wedding dress and ring have been found floating in the Serpentine. Holmes quickly solves the mystery, locating Hatty at a hotel with a mysterious, “common-looking” man who had picked up her dropped bouquet after the ceremony. The man turns out to be Hatty’s husband Frank, whom she had thought dead in America, and who had managed to locate her only moments before she was to marry Lord St. Simon. Frank and Hatty had just determined to go to Lord St. Simon in order to explain the situation when Holmes found them.

“The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet” May 1892

A banker asks Holmes to investigate after a “Beryl Coronet” entrusted to him is damaged at his home. Awakened by noise, he had found his son, Arthur, holding the damaged coronet. Arthur refuses to speak, neither admitting guilt nor explaining himself. Footprints in the snow outside the house tell Holmes that the banker’s niece had conspired with a blackguard to steal the coronet; Arthur had discovered the crime in progress and the coronet had been damaged during his struggle to prevent it being stolen. He had refused to tell his father the truth of the crime because of his love for his cousin.

“The Adventure of the Copper Beeches” June 1892

Violet Hunter consults Holmes after being offered a governess job subject to a number of unusual conditions, including cutting her hair short. The wage is extremely high, £120, and she decides to accept the job, though Holmes tells her to contact him if she needs to. After a number of strange occurrences, including the discovery of a sealed-off wing of the house, she does so. Holmes discovers that someone had been kept prisoner in the wing, but when Holmes, Watson and Hunter enter, it is empty. They are accused of freeing the prisoner, who was the daughter of Hunter’s employer, who sets his dog on them, though it attacks him instead. It is revealed that Hunter had been hired to impersonate her employer’s daughter so that her fiancé would believe she was no longer interested in seeing him, but the daughter had escaped and the pair later married.

My Thoughts:

I remembered the gist of almost all the stories from my read in 2009, so this wasn’t a taut read. More comfortable really. Like putting on a pair of old slippers.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.