Reviews by L. J. Roberts

REXT STOUT Fer-de-Lance

REX STOUT – Fer-de-Lance. Farrar & Rinehart, hardcover, 24 October 1934. Preceded by an abridged version in The American Magazine, November 1934, as “Point of Death.” Reprinted many times, including once with a title change: Meet Nero Wolfe. Mercury Mystery #37, digest ppbk, abridged, 1941.

Film: Columbia, 1936, as Meet Nero Wolfe (with Edward Arnold and Lionel Stander as Nero Wolfe and Archie; director: Herbert Biberman).

Genre:   Private investigator. Leading characters:  Nero Wolfe/Archie Goodwin; 1st in series. Setting:   New York City, 1934.

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 and there was nothing for me to do but errands, and Wolfe never hesitated about running me down to Murray Street for a can of shoe-polish if he happened to need one.

REXT STOUT Fer-de-Lance

    Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin’s first published case becomes one of two parts; a young woman hires Wolfe to find her missing brother, and a college president has been murdered on the golf course. The link: a golf club.

    The fun of reading Nero Wolfe is not the plot, although this one did have a good twist to it, but for the characters. On one hand, you have Wolfe, the corpulent, beer drinking, gourmand who has orchids cultivated in his attic conservatory.

REXT STOUT Fer-de-Lance

   He is well-read, well-spoken, often difficult to deal with, yet a brilliant deductive and intuitive thinker. On the other hand is Archie, orphaned as a child, lives in Wolfe’s brownstone, uses common English, and drinks milk.

   The two characters are complete opposites but one immediately senses the underlying respect and affection which goes beyond a working relationship. It is the dialogue and relationship of these two characters that make the book, and series, work.

   An interesting aspect to this book is that we meet the characters seven years in, so references to previous cases abound. In most cases, this would annoy me as there would be that sense of something missing.

REXT STOUT Fer-de-Lance

   Stout, however, is so adept in his writing and his characters are so well developed, the previous case references simply become historical notations. Stout was writing in present time, now history to us.

   Because of that, we are presented a living sense of time, place, social mores and behavior. There were certain expressions, common at the time. They are objectionable to us today and serve as a reminder of our advancement from the past.

   One element with which I did have a problem was some of Archie’s slang. There were times I had to re-read sentences or paragraphs to understand what he was saying.

   It was fun to go back and re-visit Nero and Archie, but not so much as to make me want to reread all the books. However, if you’ve never read Rex Stout, I do recommend picking up at least a few of his books.

Rating:   Good.

REXT STOUT Fer-de-Lance