Stout, Rex: (17) In the Best Families

Today I read Rex Stout’s In the Best Families because, well, it was sitting on the kitchen table when I sat down to eat breakfast. This is one of Stout’s Nero Wolfe/Archie Goodwin books; Wolfe is a very fat, very brilliant detective who never leaves his house on business, and Goodwin is his man Friday who goes about and gathers information for Wolfe to be brilliant with. Archie’s also the first-person smartass narrator of all of the stories, one of my favorite characters ever, and a pure pleasure to spend time with. (A&E TV is currently adapting a bunch of the stories, and Timothy Hutton’s Archie is a very good one.) In this book, the mysterious and dangerous Zeck (from And Be A Villain and The Second Confession) warns Wolfe off a case; Wolfe’s client is murdered; and Wolfe immediately disappears, leaving Archie at loose ends.

Some of the Wolfe books don’t have enough plot, but this has plenty. It also has some priceless moments, which I shall not spoil here. It’s probably not the best place to start reading the series, though, as it might not have as much impact if you don’t know the characters already. Good places to start would be Champagne for One or The Silent Speaker (both currently in print), for instance, or some of the short story collections.

One of the nice things about helping someone move, by the way, is unpacking boxes of books and being reminded of all the books one would like to borrow. I will not be reduced to “Well, it’s here . . .” in picking my next book to read . . .

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