Sunday, December 18, 2011

Three for the Chair, by Rex Stout


Three for the Chair
by Rex Stout
1957


I don’t like the slant of your eye. If you're thinking of badgering me, don't. Go somewhere. (Nero Wolfe, to Archie Goodwin)

My game plan was to skip over the few volumes I missed the first time through the Nero Wolfe canon and go through the entire list again, this time in order. So much for those best-laid plans. Since I ran across one of the unread volumes at my local bookstore I decided to give it a whirl. I wouldn't say that Three for the Chair is one of Stout's strongest outings but it had its moments.

A Window for Death
My main quibble with this one was the pacing. The first half of the story finds Wolfe and the principals in the (murder) case sitting in Wolfe's office, discussing the case. While I'm not expecting the pacing of a Die Hard movie it got to be a bit much. Fortunately the second half picks up a bit and Stout throws in something fairly ingenious - but enough said about that.

Immune to Murder
In this one Wolfe gets out of the brownstone to attend a gathering of the rich and powerful at a lodge in upstate New York. One of the diplomats visiting there has requested that Wolfe attend and execute his famous recipe for fresh trout. Things proceed quite nicely until one of the other attendees is bumped off and Wolfe springs into action - more so that he can get home than out of any sense of duty. As you can see from the accompanying clip this is one of the stories made into an episode for the most recent Nero Wolfe TV series (FYI - I haven't reviewed the clip for spoilers).

Too Many Detectives
I'd rank this as the best of the bunch, probably because the fat man and Archie have a strong interest in resolving the crime that drives it. Wolfe and a number of other private detectives have been called to Albany for questioning about their role in some potentially illegal wiretapping activities. While they're being questioned a somewhat bold crime is committed, Wolfe ends up in hot water and must rally his fellow detectives to get things sorted out.

1 comment:

  1. I would rank this volume of novellas among the better ones, solely on the strength of the opening and closing stories.

    Yes, the pacing in the first story is slow, but the solution (and especially the murderers modus operandi) shows an unusual amount of ingenuity on Stout's part. The final story is great for pretty much the same reasons as you mentioned, but it's also, I think, the first, on-page, interaction between Wolfe, Goodwin, Bonner and Colt (I love crossovers!). It would've been a downright masterpiece if he had also included Fox.

    Oh, and trying to make structural plans for your reading habits concerning mysteries are cursed and doomed to failure.

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