This story, "Christmas Party," is one of four novellas in the book And Four to Go. This novella was first published in Collier's, January 4, 1957, as "The Christmas-Party Murder".
Nero Wolfe is an eccentric private investigator who only works when he needs money to pay for his hobbies (orchids and food) or to support his household. All of the Nero Wolfe mysteries are narrated by Archie Goodwin, a private investigator who also serves as Wolfe's secretary when a case is not going.
The story starts with Archie refusing to accompany Wolfe to a meeting with a well-known horticulturalist. He reminds Wolfe he already has plans to attend a Christmas party at a ex-client's business, as a guest of one of the employees. As we can guess, a death occurs at the party.
This one is not especially satisfying as a mystery. More attention is paid to the relationship of Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe, which is fine with me because that is what I enjoy most about the Nero Wolfe mysteries. With such a short story I don't want to tell more but I do recommend it, at least for those who enjoy the interplay of Wolfe and Archie.
www.eyrie.org considers this the weakest story in the book. I have not re-read the other stories in the book, so I won't comment on that. He does note that it "may be more appealing to someone who has read a lot of Nero Wolfe." But I really like what he has to say about the series in general:
Wolfe mysteries, to note, are not the sort where the reader is given all the evidence and can try to solve the mystery before the investigators. Usually, Wolfe goes into the final confrontation with only a tactic to discover the murderer, not the final understanding of the mystery. These stories are about the process, and about Wolfe's thoroughly enjoyable speeches and Archie's infuriation of the police.
The three other novellas in this book are:
- "Easter Parade"
- "Fourth of July Picnic"
- "Murder Is No Joke"
Since two of them are set around holidays, I decided to save them for those holidays. Let's just hope I remember. The introduction by Jane Haddam in the Bantam Crime Line edition is also very entertaining.