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Fer-de-Lance [Mass Market Paperback]

Rex Stout
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 21 1997 Nero Wolfe Mysteries
As any herpetologist will tell you, the fer-de-lance is among the most dreaded snakes known to man.  When someone makes a present of one to Nero Wolfe, Archie Goodwin knows he's getting dreadully close to solving the devilishly clever murders of an immigrant and a college president.  As for Wolfe, he's playing snake charmer in a case with more twists than an anaconda -- whistling a seductive tune he hopes will catch a killer who's still got poison in his heart.

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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


"Fer-de-Lance 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 --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I love Nero Wolfe March 13 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The Nero Wolfe novels are pure mystery classics. I love the characters, the development of the story line, and everything else that comes with these books. Fer-de-Lance is a great example of a Stout novel.
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5.0 out of 5 stars MYSTERY Feb. 19 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I love Rex Stout's book. Archie Goodwin is a great narrator He tell a story the way it should be told
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Format:Audio Cassette
The quality of Rex Stout's writing is unique in its blend of mystery and detective techiques whereas some mystery/detective authors use only one method. The stories of Nero Wolfe are entertaining, well written, and full of colorful, eccentric characters. This story is well written with the small details and descriptions fleshed out nicely. The story is about two murders, initially unconnected until Nero Wolfe sniffs out the truth. Read several of the Nero Wolfe stories and you will feel right at home in the Brownstone on 35th Street. Fer-De-Lance might be the first of the Nero Wolfe series, but it is a wonderful first book. The rotund Nero Wolfe does the thinking and Archie Goodwin does the 'legwork' with a sweet, sarcastic nature. I strongly recommend this story and many others in the Nero Wolfe series to all mystery and detective story lovers.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great beginning for an outstanding series Dec 30 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The Nero Wolfe series is absolutely outstanding, and this book serves as a good introduction for it. The plot concerns an Italian immigrant and a university president who have just been killed. Although there seems to be no link between the two, Wolfe discovers it and exploits it to expose a killer.

Don't expect an Agatha Christie or Sherlock Holmes plot for this novel--Stout wrote good mysteries, but his gems are in his characters. Wolfe, the overweight, orchid-loving, car-fearing gourmand, and his sidekick Archie, the epitome of the 1930's fast-talking, sarcastic detective, are lovable right from the beginning. Although Stout still has a few details to work out, the set-up is the same in this book as it is in the last. That isn't to say Stout didn't improve it--he didn't have to; it was perfect from the start. He achieved the rare find in the world of mystery--FOUR-dimensional characters in a plausible setting with a credible mystery.

Bottom Line: Serves as a good introduction, but don't expect a great mystery, just exemplary characters!! Make certain you get the Bantam Crime Line edition--it comes with an introduction and trivia about Nero Wolfe at the end of the novel--great for either the beginning reader or the long-time fan.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Starting in the midst Nov. 14 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Where most famous detective series actually start at a beginning point--Doyle's Study in Scarlett actually starts with Watson meeting Holmes, and Christie's Mysterious Affair at Styles shows us Hastings meeting Poirot--this amazing series begins in medias res, running on all its cylinders. Archie Goodwin is drinking milk and making smart-aleck remarks; Nero Wolfe is more concerned with his orchid schedule and the quality of his beer than the conclusion of the case. It is amazing that Rex Stout created this wonderful world out of whole cloth; if you're familiar to the series, you feel right at home, and if you're new to it, you feel as if you haven't missed a thing.

The plotting here isn't particularly fabulous--the mystery involves the rather elaborate murder of a university president, and the suspects are narrowed to one well before the end. Nevertheless, the pleasures of this book are many. Stout combines Archie's gumshoe attitude with the eccentricity of Wolfe's genius detective--straight out of a British cozy. The relationship between the two--and their interactions, both with the secondary characters (the perpetually dispepsic Det. Cramer, Fritz, the haughty chef, Saul Panzer, the detective's detective, et al.) and with the various clients and suspects who present themselves are a joy to behold. As with the fun A&E video series, the enjoyment is derived from the attitude and the interaction, more than from the working out of the actual mystery. If you're a timetable-and-map fan, this series probably isn't for you. But if you like a memorable cast of characters interacting in perpetually surprising, always inevitable ways, this is a great place to start a wonderful series.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Stout is a master Nov. 18 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Rex Stout is one of my favorite authors of all time. If you're new to his works, beware, you'll become addicted. But that isn't such a bad thing, he was a prolific writer and you'll not soon run out of material. Fer-De-Lance is the first Stout published about the now famous team of inspiring, albeit grumpy and slighly neurotic, genius detective Nero Wolfe and charming legman Archie Goodwin, who frequently purposely ruffles Nero's feathers. This book is definitely worth reading. Highly entertaining, with one caveat: if you have never read Wolfe before, begin with a different one as your very first. Try Some buried Caesar, or The Silent Speaker first to help you develop a feel for this incredible duo....then I think you'll appreciate Fer-De-Lance more. (You can also find Nero Wolfe on cable TV... a serious treat for any Wolfe fan) Enjoy!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Wolfe doesn't get snakebit March 30 2002
Format:Audio Cassette
This is the first of the Wolfe series, and my second (I started with The Second Confession). I love the snappy banter between Wolfe and Goodwin, and Wolfe's eccentricities. Goodwin enjoys jabbing at his boss at every turn, and I can just picture the fat, lazy genius who refuses to get out of his chair when a lady comes to his presence. Wolfe scores a zinger early as he figures out the method with which Barstow is killed. The latter part of the book was dissappointing. We figure out the killer way too early, and the "suspense" ends up trying to figure out Wolfe's plan for the finale. Once we got there, I was stunned - surely Wolfe could have planned something better than that! Yes, the killer pays, but I expected Wolfe to come up with a cleaner way of disposing of the case.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Superb, correct language & whimsical jargon.
This a guy's book by a famous male, not of my era no less. I have no use for golf and am not endeared to the fat employer, `Nero Wolfe' of narrator `Archie'. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Carolyn
3.0 out of 5 stars The introduction to great characters in detective fiction
First Sentence: There was no reason why I shouldn't have been sent for the beer that day, for the last ends of the Fairmont National Bank case had been gathered in the week before... Read more
Published on May 4 2010 by L. J. Roberts
3.0 out of 5 stars Average
Maybe this type of book just isn't my cup of tea. It wasn't a bad book in itself, but just not for me.
Published on March 13 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Nero Wolfe in general.
I do not know if my opinion is what you are looking for. I qwn all of the Nero Wolfe books and have read and reread every one of them numerous times. Read more
Published on Jan. 25 2002 by Russell A. Gosnell
5.0 out of 5 stars This Book Started It All
As a mystery author with my first novel in initial release, I must admit to admiring the work of Rex Stout. His Nero Wolfe series shows us all how a master works. Read more
Published on July 5 2001 by Kent Braithwaite
5.0 out of 5 stars Sleuthing out a Snake in the Grass
A prominent businessman drops dead of an apparent heart attack while playing golf. A few days later an out-of-work machinist disappears and is found murdered. Read more
Published on July 3 2001 by George R Dekle
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