Friday, July 3, 2015

"Fourth of July Picnic" by Rex Stout

Since Christmas of last year, I have been reading through Rex Stout's And Four To Go, a collection of four novellas featuring Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. All but one of the novellas is set around a holiday, so I have featured each one on the associated holiday. Today we have a Fourth of July story.

One of Nero Wolfe's eccentricities is that he will do almost anything to avoid leaving his home. In most cases he is an armchair detective, and never has any desire to visit the scene of the crime. Yet his antipathy for leaving home goes beyond that. He doesn't like to travel by any means of transportation and won't be driven by anyone but Archie. There are always exceptions, of course. I usually enjoy the stories and novels that take Wolfe out of his normal setting.

In this novella, Wolfe has been hounded into speaking at a Fourth of July picnic for the United Restaurant Workers of America (URWA). In return, one of the representatives of that group will stop hounding Fritz, Wolfe's cook, to join the group. During the speeches, one of the important members of the group is killed. It turns out only a few people (those giving speeches, including Wolfe) could be responsible. The denouement is not up to Stout's usual standards, but the shenanigans that take place up to that point are fun.



Even I, a big Nero Wolfe, was not overly impressed with this novella. It does not have the same charm as the other two from And Four To Go that I read in the last few months. Many of the regular recurring characters did not appear, including Fritz. But it was still entertaining enough for me.

The other two novellas were "Easter Parade" and "Christmas Party". Click on the link for reviews.

This brings me to the last novella in And Four To Go: "Murder is No Joke." I will be reading that one soon.

12 comments:

  1. TracyK: Nero and Archie have penetrated my mind. They are among the few sleuths I can see in my head and know how they would speak in different situations. I sometimes dream of the regularity of Wolfe's life with beer and books and fine dining and orchids. My life is so messy. I am constantly in a rush and there is no routine.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bill, the regularity of Wolfe's life is appealing. I like routine, but work and other demands often get in the way. Even Wolfe has to break his routine when he has to work on a case to support his lifestyle. Doesn't apply in this case though.

      Delete
  2. Tracy, I think Rex Stout is going to haunt me until I read at least one of his books. Thanks for the reminder again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Prashant, you enjoy and see the good in so many types of writing, I know you will appreciate Rex Stout when your read one of his books or stories.

      Delete
  3. Nice choice for today, Tracy. I agree with you that not all of Stout's work is his very best. But even so, I think Stout at his weakest is better than a lot of people's at their best...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Margot, when it comes to Rex Stout I am biased, but I agree with what you say wholeheartedly.

      Delete
  4. Yes, Stout at his weakest is better than many writers' works.

    I think that Nero Wolfe does best when he's at home in his study or in his orchid room upstairs or harassing Fritz in the kitchen about how many juniper berries to use. That is his element and he is at his most incisive and wittiest.

    Wolfe is an agoraphobic and if he has to leave his house, he has panic attacks. So, he isn't at his best.

    When he is in his brownstone's study with the suspects lined up, Wolfe is at his finest.
    He takes no prisoners. He puts everyone on the spot until he announces the perpetrator(s).

    The orchids, the gourmet meals, the beer, the study, all of Wolfe's habits make for fun for the readers/fans.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very well said, Kathy. Although I like the Nero Wolfe stories no matter where they find Wolfe, I will agree that the ones set in the brownstone are the most fun because of the all the routines (as Bill mentioned) and seeing his home life, which is always entertaining.

      Delete
  5. Happy holiday (belated!) - I haven't been tempted to try this collection, but I will read a Stout one day!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Col, I think a Nero Wolfe novel is a better choice for you, although some Rex Stout fans think the novellas are just as well plotted.

      Delete
  6. Well, a nice choice for the holiday even if it wasn't his finest work.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was a fun story for the Fourth of July, Moira. And I probably loved it the first few times I read it.

      Delete