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This Nero Wolfe novel is the final in the fictional timeline and the last written by Stout. It is set in 1974 with references to Nixon, Ford and Watergate. This is a little weird as I always picture Archie and Wolfe as creatures of the 30s and 40s. If Archie was hired in 1930 and must have been at least 23, then in 1974 Archie would be 67, and the older Fritz and Wolfe are still alive and kicking in 1974? Oh well, you have to suspend disbelief for this timeline. Nevertheless the characters and relationships are at their best, the writing is excellent with lots of wit and detail, and the story is interesting with unexpected twists and a killer ending. The narration, as always, is excellent.
This is a must read for any lover of Nero Wolfe, but don’t make it your first of the series, or even your tenth. This should be one of the last read, as it will be more enjoyable if you know all the characters really well. This book is one of my all-time favorites of the series.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
This was Rex Stout’s last Nero Wolfe mystery, written around 1974 or ‘75. While I never read a bad Nero Wolfe book, some are better than others, and this may have been his finest work—for several reasons (that I don’t entirely want to spell out, to avoid saying too much).
However, it is fair to say that in this last work, Stout allowed Wolfe to nudge himself just a tiny bit more into displaying human feelings than the great man usually allowed himself to show. And listening to it, knowing this was Stout’s (and Nero Wolfe’s) swan song, so to speak, made the entire book seem more precious. I thought I had read the entire series, way back when, but somehow I had never read this—so it was a double pleasure for me.
One of the somewhat jarring things about it was hearing references to more modern security and phone systems, etc, than we read about in the main body of work. Even the extensive references to Nixon made it feel as though it was displaced in “Archie Goodwin” time. (Archie always seemed the archetypal youthful sidekick detective, from approximately Post WWII time frame, while Nero Wolfe felt more ageless to me). And in this last book, speaking through Nero Wolfe, it seemed as though Rex Stout was allowing some personal political opinions to come out in a strong way—something I don’t recall so much before.
And the ending—I sure didn’t see it coming (though I might have, had I thought about it, since I have read the continuing set of NW mysteries, by Robert Goldsborough). To anyone who is unfamiliar with this last book, as I was, just allow yourself to settle in for a powerful listening experience! If you have never read a Nero Wolfe book before, don’t begin with this one. Let this truly be your end experience of this series, as it will mean a lot more!
6 of 6 people found this review helpful