Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Might As Well Be Dead: Rex Stout

Might As Well Be Dead by Rex Stout is a Nero Wolfe novel, published in 1956. In some ways, this novel fits the (somewhat) standard formula of the mysteries featuring Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe. The case starts as a search for a missing person, then later turns into a hunt for murderer. The setting is New York and we spend plenty of time in the brownstone, following the investigation. Wolfe's standard group of freelance investigators are called in to help.

The missing person is the son of a businessman from Omaha, Nebraska; the well-to-do business man, James R. Herold, has discovered that he wrongly accused his son of theft eleven years earlier and wants to re-establish contact with him. The New York police have had no success finding him and they suggested Nero Wolfe might be able to do more on the case. Soon Archie and Nero are wondering if the man they are searching for is a man recently convicted of murder. That leads to Wolfe trying to prove that the convicted man was not the murderer and this becomes one of the more complex cases that Wolfe has dealt with.

There are many interesting characters. The father is a real cold fish, but he is trying to do right by his son. And he keeps mentioning how his wife as getting impatient about the search.

The convicted man's lawyer is certain the man did not commit murder, but doesn't have the resources to do the required research to prove it. And thus Wolfe gets involved, taking the risk that if he can prove the man is innocent, he will reap some benefits. Wolfe and Archie are both at their best in this story. Archie is again bewitched by a woman who is central to the story. And it works very well here.

Wolfe's lawyer, Nathaniel Parker, has a bigger role than usual. Inspector Cramer and Sergeant Purley Stebbins are not happy at all to hear that Wolfe is trying to prove that they made a mistake in charging the convicted man.

I always love the descriptions of Wolfe's band of investigators who work for him when needed. Archie is narrating, of course.
WHEN I GOT BACK to 35th Street it was half-past six and the conference was in full swing.
I was pleased to see that Saul Panzer was in the red leather chair. Unquestionably Johnny Keems had made a go for it, and Wolfe himself must have shooed him off. Johnny, who at one time, under delusions of grandeur, had decided my job would look better on him or he would look better on it, no matter which, but had found it necessary to abandon the idea, was a pretty good operative but had to be handled. Fred Durkin, big and burly and bald, knows exactly what he can expect of his brains and what he can’t, which is more than you can say for a lot of people with a bigger supply. Orrie Cather is smart, both in action and in appearance. As for Saul Panzer, I thoroughly approve of his preference for free-lancing, since if he decided he wanted my job he would get it–or anybody else’s.
Any Nero Wolfe novel by Rex Stout has a lot to offer, and this one is no different. This was a reread, and it did not disappoint me.

See Yvette's review at In so many words.


Publisher:  Fontana, 1980. Orig. pub. 1956.
Length:     192 pages
Format:     Paperback
Series:      Nero Wolfe
Setting:     New York City
Genre:      Mystery
Source:     I purchased this book.


Cath said...

I must get around to reading more Nero Wolfe books, I read a couple and then, you know, how it is, a load of other books and series intruded. This sounds excellent.

Margot Kinberg said...

That's the thing about the Nero Wolfe novels, isn't it, Tracy. They really do not disappoint. I've liked some better than I've liked others, but on the whole, they're well worth reads and re-reads. Glad you enjoyed your re-visit with this one.

TracyK said...

I do know how it is, Cath. Everyday I see an interesting book I would like to read and I already have too many.

TracyK said...

I did enjoy it, Margot, and this was one that I had forgotten how it ended, so that was an extra plus. Most of the Nero Wolfe plots I have memorized.

Rick Robinson said...

I've read a lot of the Wolfe books, perhaps not all, but I'm unsure and have no good way to tell. So I read one occasionally and if it seems familiar, that's okay, because they're always enjoyable.

Seems like you're posting more reviews lately. What a good thing that is!

Mathew Paust said...

Ahh, I've missed the gang! Haven't read any Wolfe in a while, and this is one I've yet to read. You've whetted my appetite for more time in the brownstone, Tracy!

TracyK said...

Thank you, Rick. I agree, I always enjoy a Nero Wolfe book by Rex Stout. Always dependable entertainment.

TracyK said...

I hope you do return for a visit to the Wolfe residence, Mathew. This one is very good.

Clothes in Books said...

There are still a good few of these books that I haven't read, and this is one of them. YOu make me long for a quiet few hours in the brownstone!

TracyK said...

Thanks, Moira. I would love to be there too. I have been re-watching some of the Nero Wolfe series with Timothy Hutton and Maury Chaykin recently and they are even more fun than I remember. I just saw Champagne for One and that is a book I want to return to soon.

col2910 said...

Still not tried him!

TracyK said...

Oh well, someday you will. And someday I will read more books that lean in the other direction (edgier, gritty).