Sunday, April 14, 2024

Plot It Yourself: Rex Stout

I had not planned to review this book, but then I realized that this is a bookish book, with the plot revolving around authors, publishers, and accusations of plagiarism. Rex Stout gets to poke some fun at publishers, authors, and even himself in this book.

Rex Stout wrote 33 novels and 41 novellas about the private detective Nero Wolfe and his assistant, Archie Goodwin. The series began in 1934, with Fer-de-lance, and the last book in the series, A Family Affair, was published in 1975, shortly before Stout's death. I have read all of the novels and the shorter works several times over the years, so this was a reread for me.

In Plot It Yourself, four authors have been accused of plagiarism over four years. The four incidents have been similar, and looking back it is clear that they were carefully planned and have similarities. In most of the cases, the publishers have settled before the case went to trial. When a fifth author is accused of plagiarism, a group of authors and publishers band together to get help with this issue. They ask Nero Wolfe to solve the mystery of who is behind the false plagiarism claims.

Wolfe takes some time evaluating the situation, reading the books of the people who claim to have been plagiarized, and comes up with a plan to identify the culprit. When a death occurs as a result of his investigation, Wolfe realizes he has made an unpardonable mistake. Now that there is a death, the police are investigating that crime, but the publishers group asks Wolfe to continue working on the plagiarism case. 

Nero Wolfe has many quirks. He doesn't like to leave his house; he is a confirmed armchair detective. He lets Archie do much of the leg work and pulls in a team of freelance investigators when needed. He spends most of his time on gourmet food, cooking, beer, and orchids. While working on this case, he is so enraged by the mistake he made that he vows to eat no meat and drink no beer until the murderer is caught.

See my post about Top Ten Reasons Why I Love Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe Series for an overview of the series.

This is actually a very good book for someone new to the Nero Wolfe series to start out with. It is a straightforward mystery. Some of Rex Stout's novels can be fairly convoluted and seem to involve intuition just as much as detection, which doesn't bother me, because I am reading more for characters than plot in this series. 

This book counts for the Bookish Books Reading Challenge hosted by Susan at Bloggin' 'bout Books.


Publisher:  Bantam, 1989. Orig. pub. 1959.
Length:      208 pages
Format:     Paperback
Series:      Nero Wolfe, #32
Setting:     New York
Genre:      Mystery
Source:     A reread.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Always loved his books too although it's been a long, long time. I need to reread one.

Margot Kinberg said...

I'm so glad you reviewed this one, Tracy. I do like the Nero Wolfe series, and I can just picture him refusing to drink beer until he solves this case! I confess, this is one of Stout's books that I haven't read, but now I see I need to go back and rectify that!

Cath said...

Love the sound of this, Tracy. Crime stories that involve books and writing are always one of my favourite sub-genres. I will go and check it out.

TracyK said...

Patti, I still find the Nero Wolfe series fun (and educational) and the books are pretty short too, which I like.

TracyK said...

Margot, Wolfe is such a unique character. I love reading about his life in the brownstone. Archie is actually my favorite character though. You would enjoy this book, I am sure.

TracyK said...

Cath, the focus of the book on writing, authors, and publishers makes this one especially interesting. Often Wolfe only works for the very rich (because they can afford him), which can be fun too. There was at least one other Nero Wolfe book set in publishing, Murder by the Book, which has one of my favorite scenes in that series.

Lark said...

This does sound like a fun mystery. I haven't read any of Stout's books, but I have him on my list of classic mystery authors I want to try. Would I have to start with the first book in this series, or could I dip in any where?

TracyK said...

Lark, you can read them in any order. When I first read them (decades ago), I only had access at the library and none of the holds and requests that now exist, you took what was there. So I read them out of order. There are only a few that should not be read before others: The Second Confession and In the Best Families are part of a trilogy and should be read after And Be a Villain. The very last book, A Family Affair, should be read last.

Kathy's Corner said...

Hi Tracy, I did read Rex Stout's first Nero Wolfe mystery Fer De Lance. I need to go further because Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin are such great characters and they have such chemistry together. The early books have a great NYC ambiance from the 1930's and 1940's written in real time.

I did watch years ago the PBS Nero Wolfe mystery series starring Maury Chaykin and Timothy Hutton. It ran 2 years and the best part is I checked and the series is being rerun and is online!

TracyK said...

Kathy, we watched that Nero Wolfe TV series when it came out and have watched it again on DVD. I think those TV shows were really well done.

I do hope you find more Nero Wolfe mysteries to read. Right now I am going to focus on reading some of the books that include a few novellas since I think I have reread those less.

Clothes In Books said...

I have read quite a few Nero Wolfe books now - encouraged by you and other bloggers - but not this one. It sounds splendid, I have just bought it for my Kindle.

TracyK said...

I hope you like it, Moira. The setting in the publishing world is fun. There are less of Wolfe's quirks and more emphasis on the plot, which makes for a different read.