Thursday, February 5, 2009

Fer-de-Lance by Rex Stout

The first in the Nero Wolfe series. I saw part of a Nero Wolfe movie on TV years ago and decided I had to read the series and it didn't disappoint me. Nero Wolfe is Stout's answer to an American Sherlock Holmes with Archie Goodwin as a cross between Dr. Watson and Sam Spade or Mike Hammer. In other words, a dynamic combination.

This book opens up with Maria Maffei coming to Wolfe to find her brother's whereabouts. He takes up the case, however, some boys fish out Mr. Maffei's body before they can get a start on the case. While uncovering Maffei's death, Wolfe uncovers another death, that of Peter Oliver Barstow, who apparently had a heart attack on the golf course. Wolfe suspects otherwise and offers a wager that if Barstow's body is exhumed, there will be some surprising results. If there weren't, then there wouldn't be a story. Evidently, someone murdered Mr. Barstow, but who and why. Wolfe believes he's on the right trail and a fer-de-lance snake in his desk drawer confirms it.

Well written, characters well developed, and the mystery is drawn out beautifully. Even if the reader figures out who, why, and how, the way Wolfe deduces everything is well worth the read. This is definitely a series worth keeping up (especially to read on a cold and/or rainy night) and I'm afraid I'm hooked on it.

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