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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 the Audio Cassette edition.
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.
This is the first story of the initial series on Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin, published in 1934. The reader finds the genius detective and his factotum Archie, in medias res, so to say, already well established in New York, known for the crimes they solved, together with their customs and regulations in place. Wolfe is sedentary, and prefers to solve all the mysteries in the comfort of his office, while Archie is running around, gathering information and telling Wolfe, in rare cases, whether his presence is desperately needed. Readers became interested, wanted to know more and were looking for other volumes. Stout wrote 72 of them and after he died, apparently, one more was found.
As I once wrote, one doesn’t read Nero Wolfe for the detective cases, but for the character of Wolfe and Archie, their discussions and their wit.
It is all established in this first volume, even though, to my knowledge, we are never able to find out where, when, and how these two main characters got together.
I was surprised to find out how popular Nero Wolfe was when the series appeared for the first time.The character became a part of American culture, and that’s why the re-printing fifty and sixty years after their creation was so welcomed by old readers and as well as the new ones.
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.
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 ›
Most recent customer reviews
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
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
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