I've promised myself for the past decade that, when I finally retire, my first major project will be to reread the entire Nero Wolfe canon in chronological order, a worthwhile occupation if ever there was one.
Although entirely different and not nearly as literary as Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer series or the Philip Marlowe novels of Raymond Chandler, the Wolfe saga deserves to be ranked with them as among the finest series of detective stories ever written by an American. Fer-de-lance introduces the brilliant, idiosyncratic, and obese armchair detective to the world and, while it may not be the best book of the series, it provides a wonderful murder set on a golf course and a cast of characters and laundry list of eccentricities that are an integral part of each novel and novella.
Rex Stout has managed to pull off a feat unparalleled to this day: the perfect combination of deductive reasoning--as exemplified by the classic Golden Age writers such as Christie, Sayers, Van Dine, and Queen--with the hard-boiled attitude and dialogue of the more realistic tough guy writers such as Chandler, Macdonald, Hammett, and Robert B. Parker.
The toughness is brought to the books by Wolfe's leg man and amanuensis, Archie Goodwin. The structure and ambience of the books is, quite deliberately, very much like the Sherlock Holmes stories that Stout so admired. The house on West 35th Street is as familiar as the sitting room at 221B Baker Street; his cook Fritz pops up as regularly as Mrs. Hudson; and his irritant, Inspector Cramer of the NYPD, serves the same role as several Scotland Yard detectives, notably Inspector Lestrade, did for Holmes. Fair warning: It is safe to read one Nero Wolfe novel, because you will surely like it. It is extremely unsafe to read three, because you will forever be hooked on the delightful characters who populate these perfect books. --Otto Penzler
will be welcomed by the legions of Rex Stout fans, and serve as welcome introduction to a whole new generation of mystery buffs." -- The Midwest Book Review, May 1997
"I've noticed books by Rex Stout (1886-1975) for many years but never have purchased or read one. You know, so many books, so little time. I've been missing the company of the ever-eccentric Nero Wolfe and his faithful legman, Archie Goodwin...I don't want to tell you too much about this classic tale and spoil your fun. This version is expertly performed by Michael Prichard, who has also brought novels by Clive Cussler and Tom Clancy to life." -- Jim Clark, Publisher
"In the annals of eccentric private detectives, one of the most famous is Nero Wolfe. Wolfe is an obese, misanthropic, arrogant orchid fancier who solves mysteries while never leaving his New York brownstone. His eyes and ears to the world is Archie Goodwin, the narrator of the books. In this well-read audio edition of Stout's first Wolfe novel, Goodwin is asked to find out who murdered a young Italian immigrant. The path leads to upscale Westchester County and to the body of a recently deceased philanthropist who has a crazy wife, a jealous son, and a beautiful daughter. Throw into the mix an attempt on Wolfe's life using a poisonous snake and the listener is entertained with a 1934 period mystery that is remarkably fresh." -- The Roanoke Times, November 16, 1997
"It is always a treat to [hear] a Nero Wolfe mystery. The man has entered our folklore." -- The New York Times Book Review
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