Fer-de-Lance Mass Market Paperback – Jan 21 1997
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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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
I evidently like the way they are written because ,from a purely personal stand point, I do not like either of the two main characters, and in real life would want no part of them.
This may be a reason for someone else to love and admire them but I think you have to love New York and it's style of living and attitudes. I don't.
Never the less because, in my opinion, the stories are so well told and the characters are so well defined, they over come my personal dislike of the people. I admire the talent of the man writing the stories.
Wolfe is a self centered, Opinionated egomaniac with no sense of humorand a total diregard for convention.He uses words that are only useful to the curious because they will look them up and increase their vocabulary which in turn may increase their ability to work cross word puzzles, because those words ane not useed in normal discourse.
The thing that constantly amazes me is , that with so many things about the two lead characters that I don't like, I continue to read the stories over and over again.
The technical aspects are not my concern , mostly I read for relaxation and enjoyment I am not looking for education, morals or religion , just enjoyment, and Rex Stout, with whom I disagree in most philosophical areas, particularly politics,has the ability to enchant me with something that makes me forget that I don't like him and read another of his tales, again.Read more ›
Rex Stout was in the midst of an unusually interesting life (including being a child math prodigy and serving on President Theodore Roosevelt's yacht) when he created one of the great detective series of all time, introducing Nero Wolfe for the first of 72 adventures in Fer-de-Lance. The brilliance of Stout's creation lies in the blending of Wolfe--an eccentric, elephantine, misanthropic, misogynistic, beer guzzling, gourmand--and his footman, Archie Goodwin--a classic, wise cracking, hard boiled dick. The combination, sort of like teaming Mycroft Holmes and Sam Spade, allowed him to use the best elements of both the British drawing room mystery and the American private eye novel. The result has enchanted readers for almost 70 years. Fans include everyone from Oliver Wendell Holmes to PG Wodehouse, James M. Cain to Kingsley Amis.
Nero Wolfe, logging in around 280 lbs and quaffing 6 quarts of beer a day, rarely leaves his 35th Street brownstone in Manhattan, preferring to tend his orchids and worry over the exquisite meals prepared by his butler/chef Fritz. To support his high living, Wolfe takes on investigations in a very unofficial capacity, relying on Goodwin to do the physical work and periodically summoning the principals in a case to his home for an exhibition of his deductive genius. His arrogant manner is nicely captured in the following admonition to a sporting goods salesman who has condescendingly demonstrated the proper use of golf clubs:
You know, Mr. Townsend, it is our good fortune that the exigencies of birth and training furnish all of us with opportunities for snobbery.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Rex Stout: Fer-de-Lance.
This is the first story of the initial series on Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin, published in 1934. Read more
I love Rex Stout's book. Archie Goodwin is a great narrator He tell a story the way it should be toldPublished on Feb. 19 2014 by Eilleen Baker
This a guy's book by a male, not of my era no less. I'm pleasantly surprised at how well I was carried along! Read morePublished on Aug. 30 2013 by Carolyn
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. Read morePublished on March 13 2013 by Douglas Ketcheson
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 morePublished on May 4 2010 by L. J. Roberts
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. Read morePublished on April 28 2004 by Peter Smith
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... Read morePublished on Nov. 13 2003 by David Kudler
Rex Stout is one of my favorite authors of all time. If you're new to his works, beware, you'll become addicted. Read morePublished on Nov. 17 2002
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. Read morePublished on March 29 2002 by Paul Skinner