Thursday, March 10, 2016

Classic #6

I read this book for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2016.

Over My Dead Body – Rex Stout

Published in 1939 after being serialized in The American Magazine, this is the seventh mystery that starred rotund PI Nero Wolfe and his more active assistant and sidekick Archie Goodwin. Wolfe has enough eccentricities for three people: indolent, orchid-fancying, woman-hater in the old-fashioned way, agoraphobic, and most shocking of all, a voracious reader. But he is as brilliant as Sherlock Holmes. Archie is the archetypal American: athletic, brash, wise-cracking, and a hit with the fair sex.

Nero Wolfe confronts consequences of his own decisions made in the last days of the troubled Hapsburg empire and its seething possessions in Croatia, Bosnia, and Montenegro. That is, he adopted a baby girl, left her with people he trusted, but lost touch with her when they were killed for their revolutionary sympathies by the secret police.

The situation gives Archie a chance to tease Wolfe:

"I'm resigning as of this moment."

"Resigning from what?"

"You. My job."


"No, boss, really. You told the G-man you have never married. Yet you have a daughter. Well," I shrugged. "I'm not a prude, but there are limits —"

The daughter does not necessarily want contact with the famous PI in Manhattan, but a spot of trouble brings her to Wolfe’s brownstone seeking help. Later two murders occur. They revolve around a fencing school where the daughter, her friend Carla, and the dodgy Miss Vorka work.

This mystery has the right amount of plot and character. Stout includes a number of scenes full of high-jinks. The reveal is logical and plausible. Unlike the other novels, Manhattan itself does not play a major role, but this is a quibble. Storm clouds of war hang over the novel, reminding us that writers are canaries in the coal mine.

My reviews of other classic Wolfe mysteries:
·         The Golden Spiders
·         The Rubber Band
·         Too Many Cooks
·         And Be a Villain
·         Some Buried Caesar
·         Champagne for One
·         Black Orchids

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