Fer-de-Lance by Rex Stout
Series: #1 in the Nero Wolfe series
Publisher: Bantam Books
Publication Date: Originally published 1934. This edition 1992
The Short Version:
The first novel featuring the eccentric Nero Wolfe who solves mysteries without ever leaving his house.
Why I Read It:
I read a later book in this series earlier this year and enjoyed it so I decided to go back and start at the beginning.
From the publisher:
As any herpetologist will tell you, the fer-de-lance is among the most dreaded snakes known to man. When someone makes a present of one to Nero Wolfe, Archie Goodwin knows he’s getting dreadfully close to solving the devilishly clever murders of an immigrant and a college president. As for Wolfe, he’s playing snake charmer in a case with more twists than an anaconda — whistling a seductive tune he hopes will catch a killer who’s still got poison in his heart.
This series pretty much ignores the passing of time. There really isn’t any ongoing storyline and Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin don’t age so the series order is not important at all.
That said, going from the 23rd book in the series back to the first there was a definite difference in quality. This first one was OK, but in all honesty if it had been the first book in this series that I’d read I would have been unlikely to pick up any others. Stout definitely improved over the years.
Nero Wolfe is an obese gourmand who spends scheduled hours each day cultivating his prize orchids. He’s eccentric and never leaves his house. His assistant Archie Goodwin narrates the stories and does all the legwork. In this first one Stout relies too heavily on Wolfe’s genius to discern what happened seemingly out of thin air. His explanations for his theories just feel too thin based on the available facts. In the later book there was a better balance of clues before theory.
I’ll keep reading the Nero Wolfe books because they’re a little like reading the old black and white mystery movies I grew up watching on Saturday afternoons. This particular one however, is easily skipped,