I read this book for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge hosted over at My Reader’s Block from January 1 – December 31, 2017. The challenge is to read books that you already own.
In the Best Families – Rex Stout
Arch criminal Arnold Zeck was Nero Wolfe’s Professor Moriarty. This is the last novel in what Wolfe fandom called “the Zeck trilogy,” the first two And Be a Villain and The Second Confession. Zeck was just a voice on the telephone in the first two but he actually appears in this one. Wolfe’s assistant Archie Goodwin observes: “[His] eyes were the result of an error on the assembly line. They had been intended for a shark and someone got careless.
Our story begins with the wealthy Mrs. Rackham consulting Wolfe. Her younger husband used to ask her for money but now he never asks but still seems to throw green stuff around like a lottery millionaire. She wants Wolfe to find out his source of moolah. Since it smells like a divorce case, Wolfe tells her that he is not interested in taking it up. But after she lays a check for $10,000 (about $150K nowadays) he changes his mind.
The next morning, a package of sausage that gourmet Wolfe has been anxious about is delivered, only to turn out to be a bomb of tear gas. The blackmailer Arnold Zeck tells Wolfe to back off the case, or else. To identify a connection between Zeck and the young husband, Wolfe sends Archie under a pretext to Mrs. Rackham’s Westchester estate to have a look-see at the hubby.
But that night Mrs. Rackham and her pet dobie are knifed to death in the woods of her estate. Archie returns to the brownstone, only to find that Wolfe has decamped. Skedaddled. A distraught Fritz asked, “What is he going to eat?” In a note Wolfe directs Archie not to look for him.
Archie then strikes out on his own, even getting his own office. Nobody believes he doesn’t know where Wolfe is. But the Rackham case won’t go away.
Any more info would spoil one of the best Wolfe-Archie novels in the canon. It took me a long time to get into this series, only taking them up in the summer of 2012. But since then they've turned in my go-to for comfort reading.