REX STOUT The Golden Spiders

REX STOUT – The Golden Spiders. Viking Press, hardcover, October 1953. Bantam #1387, paperback, November 1955. Reprinted many times in both hardcover and soft. Episode of TV series: Nero Wolfe: 16 January 1981 (Season 1, Episode 1), with William Conrad & Lee Horsley. TV movie: A&E, 5 March 2000, with Maury Chaykin & Timothy Hutton.

   I remember watching the first episode of Nero Wolfe, the one with William Conrad, or at least I think I do, because I am sure that there was a scene involving a shootout in a garage and wondering what on earth was going on. I was sure I’d never read a Nero Wolfe novel with a shootout in a garage, but I must have and I’d forgotten. There is a scene in The Golden Spiders involving a shootout in a garage, and I must be getting old. When I came to this passage when I read it earlier this week all I could think of was what on earth is Archie doing, getting involved in a shootout in a garage?

REX STOUT The Golden Spiders

   You get the idea, I’m sure. Archie Goodwin, Nero Wolfe’s right hand man, is a man of many talents. Besides following orders, wising off to the guys on the Homicide squad, interviewing suspects and transcribing his notes perfectly, he carries a gun and is as tough as he needs to be when the case calls for it. It still took me by surprise, that’s all. I think of Wolfe himself as a man of intellect, not even needing to leaving his home to solve cases, doing it all upstairs, so to speak.

   The case starts out in striking fashion. Two of Wolfe’s clients are later found murdered, run over by the same car, one of them a lady with a distinctive pair of earrings, shaped in the form of golden spiders. Says Wolfe on page 55: “I resent the assumption that people who come to me for help can be murdered with impunity.”

REX STOUT The Golden Spiders

   So begins a path that many a PI has had to take, but this case, involving an organization devoted to helping Displaced Persons, while suitably complicated, just isn’t very interesting. Even the ending, with all of the people involved gathered together with Inspector Cramer, Nero Wolfe and Archie failed with me this time out. With the hands of everyone dirty of something, who cares who the actual killer is?

   Nor do Wolfe’s well-noted powers of deduction come into play. He decides to investigate one of people involved only because the police were checking on everyone else and why should he duplicate their effort, and of course he’s right. Even more distasteful, in a theoretical purist sort of way, is the fact that much of information that Archie produces is by means of torturing one of the guys in the garage after the shooting. I know I’m in the minority on this, but Pfui.