Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Mount TBR #55

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.

Not Quite Dead Enough – Rex Stout

This Nero Wolfe double mystery is a double. That is, it contains a pair of novellas that first came out in The American Magazine (1906 - 1956), "Not Quite Dead Enough"  in December, 1942 and "Booby Trap" in August, 1944. Stout makes them topical, given the nation is at war against fascism, so Wolfe’s sidekick, Archie Goodwin, serves in the Army. Like Conan Doyle did in the Holmes stories, Stout is adept at throwing out tantalizing hints as to what Archie is doing to serve. A counter-intelligence officer, perhaps?

The WWII backdrop is unique in the canon. Archie is driven to set himself for arrest in order to snap Wolfe out of a patriotic frenzy. The wartime fever has driven the agoraphobic and gastronomic Wolfe to actually go outside and do some brisk walking. Well, as brisk as the rotund Wolfe (and the poor cook Fritz) can manage.

The book has plenty of funny characters. Also, Stout writes more tightly than usual, perhaps because the tales were originally conceived as short novels. The reveal and the ending, too, depart from the norm in that it occurs not in the office, with only Archie in attendance, with Wolfe proposing and disposing. Hey, ethics smethics, whaddaya want, there’s a war on!

I highly recommend this one to both Wolfe fans and novices.

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