Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Doorbell Rang by Rex Stout

Not liking a Nero Wolf mystery is absolute "flummery"!  Nero Wolf and Archie Goodwin are two of my favorite sleuths.  Wolf is an eccentric genius - he weighs in at "a sixth of a ton" (which figures out to 333.3 lb. for the math-challenged), spends hours every day in his greenhouse tending to his prize orchids, rarely leaves his house, is a lover of beer and gourmet food, and a champion of deductive reasoning.  Archie is Wolf's 20-something cohort - part detective, part ladies' man, part bodyguard.  Archie does all the leg work, gathers the information and reports back to Wolf, who solves the crime.  It's a unique set-up that sets Rex Stout's amazing series apart from the average who-dun-it.

In this particular episode, #41 in the series, Wolf is hired by a wealthy society widow, Rachel Bruner, who writes him a check for a whopping hundred grand. The oversize genius and his able assistant soon find out why the prize is so generous as they lock horns with the FBI. And these highly trained G-men have a way with threats , tails, and bugs that could give even sedentary sleuth Nero Wolfe a run for his money. (synopsis from Kansas Audiobooks site).

As always, the joy of a Rex Stout novel is in the characters more than the actual mystery.  Archie Goodwin narrates his own escapades through1940's New York as he gathers and reports the evidence, deals with Wolf's quirks, and sets up Wolf's master plan to trap the bad guys.  Stout is a master at pulling the reader inside this strange relationship and getting you to fall in love with his characters.  The series can only be described as classic.  Highly recommended for all mystery fans.

Now, two side points:  I listened to the audio version of this book narrated by Michael Prichard.  His voice and reading style are perfectly suited for the genre and for Archie Goodwin's character.  A+

Also, in 2001 and 2002, A&E produced a tv series based on the Nero Wolf books starring Timothy Hutton and Maury Chaykin.  It ranks on my list of top five things ever on television.  It's no longer running, but you can get the episodes on DVD.  Well worth the money. 

1 comment:

  1. I used to read Nero Wolfe a lot and then, for some reason, stopped reading him. Your post has challenge me to find one of these books and read it again. I had no idea there was a TV show. That would be a great addition to the enjoyment.