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And Be a Villain [Mass Market Paperback]

Rex Stout
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 1 1994 Nero Wolfe
Radio talk show host Madeline Fraser's worst nightmare comes true when one of her on-air guests collapses at the mike after drinking a glass of the sponsor's beverage.

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And Be a Villain + The Doorbell Rang + The Second Confession
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Product Description

About the Author

Rex Stout (1886-1975) was the creator of Nero Wolfe, one of the most popular detectives of all time.

Michael Prichard is a Los Angeles-based actor who has recorded over 400 audiobooks. Smart Money named him one of their “Top Ten Golden Voices.”
--This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

From AudioFile

A murder before a studio audience on a radio broadcast means a high-profile case and a $20,000 paycheck, both important to Nero Wolfe, who needs to boost his bank account quickly to pay for his luxurious living. Reading in Archie Goodwin's first-person voice, Michael Prichard gives the narration a touch of noir tone but keeps the emphasis on Rex Stout's witty dialogue as the wise-guy sidekick. His Nero Wolfe is suitably commanding as he belittles and deceives to get the truth from a gallery of dishonest suspects. Fans also will want to hear IN THE BEST FAMILIES, which resolves the battle with crime boss Arnold Zeck that is set up here. J.A.S. © AudioFile 2006, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Nero Wolfe Stumped by a Woman? Never! Jan. 29 2011
By Alison S. Coad TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
Although I've been trying to read the Nero Wolfe novels in chronological order, there are a few that have been hard to come by; "And Be A Villain," published in 1948, is one that I've had to read out of sequence. Not that much changes in terms of the main characters from one book to another, but author Rex Stout occasionally mentions a previously-solved case in passing, so I try to be aware of all the books that have gone before, if I can. In any event, this one involves a star female radio talk show host who has the misfortune of having one of her guests die, poisoned, on-air, and worse, the poison was placed in a soft drink that is a major sponsor of her show! Nero Wolfe, always having his self-comfort foremost in his mind, offers to work on the case for a hefty fee (he's just paid his taxes, and is feeling financially woebegone), but he soon finds that everybody connected to the case is lying to him. When another, seemingly unrelated murder occurs, other secrets begin to pile up, including a breath-takingly clever blackmail scheme and episodes from various people's past....As always, I enjoyed this taste of Nero Wolfe, although I must admit that his inherent sexism is a bit more heavy-handed in this story than in most. Still, that's a product of the times in which it was written, and with that in mind, I still found it intriguing and engaging enough to recommend it to all.
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Format:Audio Cassette
Meet it is I set it down
That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain.
- Hamlet, Act I, scene 5, soliloquy before swearing vengeance
As with all of Stout's Wolfe mysteries, the setting is contemporary with the time of its writing - in this case, 18 March - 3 April 1948, which makes it a period piece today. Radio, rather than television, was the dominant communication medium in the United States. Commercials were live, rather than pre-recorded; in the case of a talk show, the host would participate in the commercial in front of a live studio audience. (This persisted even into the early years of television. A Timex commercial that went seriously wrong, wherein the watch couldn't even be *found* after the it's-still-ticking test, persisted for decades in Johnny Carson's list of funniest incidents on his show, for example.) And at that time, a national income tax was a relatively new feature of life in the United States, and fell due on the 15th of March. All these factors matter in setting the stage for this story.
Hi-Spot, one of the sponsors of the Madeleine Fraser show, revelled in her live commercials for their product, wherein she and her guests would drink 'the drink you dream of.' But the PR dream turned into a nightmare when someone spiked one glass with cyanide, and Cyril Orchard, one of the show's guests in a discussion of gambling, died 'live' on the air.
But was the editor of _Track Almanac_ the intended victim? Among the suspects - some of whom may have been intended victims - emotions, blood, and money may have become entangled. Deborah Koppel, Fraser's business manager, is also her sister-in-law through Fraser's late husband - and her principal beneficiary. Does she blame Fraser for her brother's death?
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4.0 out of 5 stars Delightful and quaint May 24 2002
By A Customer
Format:Audio Cassette
This outing is set in a time long ago, when radio stars were national celebrities on a par with today's TV talk show hosts, and people actually clamoured to be in the audience. The Oprah of her day serves her guests the sponsor's carbonated drink on air, and one drops dead ... right there on live radio. Wolfe naturally figures out the killer's identity -- with a huge assist from Archie, just as naturally. Unfortunately, Wolfe doesn't do it in time to stop a trio of other murders from happening. He seems to feel genuinely remorseful about this, as if he were angry at himself. This isn't something we've seen often in Wolfe, and I found it appealing. Also, reading this was like getting a valentine from a long-ago era. While it may not have taken place that many years ago, today's world is far different from the one described here. Radio is not the prevalent broadcast media. Trains move at too leisurely a pace to be our primary mode of transportation anymore. And most of all, our criminals today are far more efficient and sophisticated. I kept waiting for Wolfe to send Archie to the soda bottling plant to investigate, but it never happened. And then I realized it: no one even considered mass product tampering back in the day. It actually made me kind of wistful for those more innocent times.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed first-time Stout reader Sept. 13 2001
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I'm an occasional whodunnit reader, and this was my first Rex Stout book. I wasn't terribly impressed.
A few amusing vignettes, granted, but the writing (apart from literally one or two good lines) was middling at best, and the plot was hardly original or surprising -- although perhaps Madeline Fraser's secret would have been much more shocking in 1948 than it is today.
But the worst thing about this book was Wolfe himself. I just didn't find him convincing at all. (The other characters, though, were much more so, especially Archie, who admittedly was the narrator, which must work in his favour believability-wise.)
That's the problem with eccentic geniuses, I guess. You need to be a very good writer to pull them off. And Stout just ain't quite there. (Conan Doyle, whose Holmes & Watson Stout's Wolfe and Goodwin seem to be poor imitations of, was more successful with his great detective. Holmes, though equally eccentric, was somehow always palpably real. The character of Nero Wolfe, on the other hand, just seems artificial and contrived.)
That said, the episodes with Nancylee were funny. And the glimpses of the big-money sponsors' machinations were quite diverting too. Same goes for Archie and the way he reveals to the reader his frustrations with the "genius" Wolfe. It's just a shame the supporting characters are so much more compelling than the central one.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Wolfe drinks pop...
That is worth the price of admission alone. This is a stand out mystery in the Wolfe canon. Radio celebrity Madelaine Fraser is sponsored by Hi-Spot soft drink. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Richard Schwindt
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitely meets expectations =)
Rex Stout continues to deliver a fun, challenging and engaging story featuring the characters anyone can quickly come to love. Read more
Published on Oct. 9 2010 by WryGrin
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Rex Stout
This has got to be my favorite of all the Nero Wolfe books. The interplay between Archie and Wolfe, Wolfe's rants about sub-par mass produced foodstuffs, to the dated slang used by... Read more
Published on June 27 2004 by Heather
5.0 out of 5 stars Confound it.
All the Nero Wolfes books I have read have been above par. But this one was excellent in every way. The characters are brilliant, the banter between them as clever and as witty as... Read more
Published on July 28 2001 by Aaron Newlands
5.0 out of 5 stars A Toast to the Host Makes the Guest a Ghost
A guest on a radio talk show drops dead after taking a drink of the sponsor's beverage. Everyone involved lies through their teeth. Read more
Published on July 3 2001 by George R Dekle
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Wolfe's Most Difficult Cases
It's been almost a week since guest Cyril Orchard was poisoned on the popular Madeline Fraser radio show. Read more
Published on Jan. 15 2001 by Ann E. Nichols
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best in the series
Is it just me, or did you also like the way wolfe bullied that irritating little girl in this story? Read more
Published on July 7 2000 by Wowie
4.0 out of 5 stars Wolfe meets his Moriarty
Also titled More Deaths Than One, this is the first and best of the Arnold Zeck trilogy. If you want to read it in order, follow this with The Second Confession and Even in the... Read more
Published on Aug. 2 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favorites
In my opinion the best of the Wolfe opus. Plot, dialogue and that magical relationship between Nero and Archie are absolutely first rate. If you haven't yet read it I envy you!
Published on Nov. 25 1998
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