Three novellas featuring Nero Wolfe, Archie Goodwin and the rest of the gang. What's new here is that Stout is beginning to speak forthrightly about sex. In earlier books, he'd been cunningly vague about sexual motivation or Archie's contact with women. Here, in stories written in the early 1960s, Stout first mentions pregnancy outside of marriage.
None of the 3 cases herein occur during the same year, one each occurring in 1960, 1961, and 1962. The common factor is, of course, that in each case a blunt instrument (speaking loosely) serves as a murder weapon. "Kill Now, Pay Later" - Pete Vassos, roving shoeshine guy, regularly visits the brownstone. On this occasion, he left the offices of Mercer's Bobbins early, since Dennis Ashby (one of his regular customers) had just fallen to his death from a window. After a brief interlude as a suspect (Ashby was attempting to seduce Pete's daughter Elma, a stenographer with the company), Pete is found murdered, and Elma hires Wolfe to investigate. The fee is low, but the Vassos family hero-worships him. The title quote is a comment made by Joan Ashby in the style of her late husband's favorite advertisements; he was a womanizer and deep in debt, although he'd saved the company from disintegration. Some of Wolfe's ploys include having his client as a guest in the South Room, and arranging for her to sue several suspects plus Cramer (!) for defamation. "Murder Is Corny"- Adapted for A&E's 2nd Nero Wolfe season. Wolfe starts this case in a bad mood - farmer Duncan McLeod's specially picked guaranteed fresh corn-on-the-cob shipment (one every Tuesday in season) didn't show up in time for dinner. When Cramer appears at the door later that evening with the missing crate, they learn that Ken Faber has been found murdered in the alley behind Rusterman's while delivering their corn (Wolfe's still trustee). Naturally, they unloaded the corn before calling the cops. Cramer leaves with Archie in custody as a material witness - Faber had been spreading rumors about Susan's chastity, and Archie's now implicated in the murder by various lies told to the cops. While I like this story, I think it contains several clunkers in human behavior, especially known quantities on the staff of the restaurant, who should have tipped Wolfe off about the corpse before Cramer got to him. "Blood Will Tell" - An odd item turns up in Archie's personal correspondence rather than Wolfe's - a letter on James Neville Vance's private stationery asking that he keep the enclosure until called for: an expensive necktie, stained with something that might be blood. Checking out this message from a stranger, who denies having sent it, Archie is present when the corpse of the promiscuous Bonny Kirk is found in her apartment in Vance's building - literally smashed by a bottle of vodka. When her estranged husband later asks to hire him, Wolfe accepts immediately - why is he convinced of Martin's innocence?
Again, it's an amazing little collection of short stories staring my favorite detective pair as they move through a series of events related only by their focus on blunt instruments as weapons for murder. Rex Stout continues to entertain me far beyond what I expected and I'll continue to add this and anything else I can get my hands on to my growing Nero Wolfe collection XD