Saturday, June 4, 2016

Mount TBR #19

I read this book for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge hosted over at My Reader’s Block from January 1 – December 31, 2016. The challenge is to read books that you already own.

The Case of the Black Orchids – Rex Stout

AKA Black Orchids and Death Wears an Orchid

The novella opens with Archie Goodwin complaining about being sent to the Grand Central Flower show four days running. His boss, eccentric PI Nero Wolfe, wants him to collect intelligence on three new black orchid plants, developed by Lewis Hewitt, an arch rival in bloom fancying that "churns his beer."

While at the show, Archie is smitten with the model in a unique exhibition. A beautiful blond picnics in a sylvan (now there’s 1940s word) scene with her boyfriend, near a stream with mossy walls nearby. Crowds gather when she bathes her slim ankles and beautiful tootsies in a nearby pool. Archie is unsettled in a good way, to the point where it does not bother him to view thousands of flowers day after day.

On the fourth day, the following scenario occurs. She of the comely dogs tries to awaken her BF who was feigning a nap with a newspaper over his face. But she encounters Archie, who has jumped over the rope in order to examine the supine figure. He noticed the male model’s legs at an awkward angle and thought it deserved investigation. He probes the top of the man’s head with a finger, which goes  "straight into the hole in the skull, on the way in, and it was like sticking your finger in a warm blueberry pie. "

Yuck. Not for nothing did blurb authors describe Stout as "horrific, bloody, but gay." "Gay," as in a 1940s “carefree" way, you understand.

The method of murder is diabolically clever, as we veteran mystery readers would expect in classic mysteries of this bygone era. So complicated, in fact, that I doubt it would work in the real world.

This is the first novella Stout wrote but it is quite a strong entry in Wolfe canon. Wise-guy Archie's tone has its usual brash, snappy, friendly ring. The dialog between Archie and Wolfe is both acerbic and warm. As a whodunit, it plays fair. Like any good book in a series, however, it brings up the touchstones we fans expect: irascible Lt. Cramer; the red leather chair; the brownstone and its routines; a city woman with moxie; glasses of milk; bottles of beer; and Wolfe barking, "Archie!"

It was published in the August 1941 issue of The American Magazine (1906 - 1956). In modern editions it is bundled with another novelette Cordially Invited to Meet Death in the 0553257196 edition.

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

No comments:

Post a Comment