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And Be A Villain (1994)

And Be a Villain (1994)
4.12 of 5 Votes: 5
0553239317 (ISBN13: 9780553239317)
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And Be A Villain (1994)
And Be A Villain (1994)

About book: Nero Wolfe needs a case and fortunately a murder occurs right on the radio for Wolfe to solve. One of the guests on the Madeline Fraser radio program has been poisoned. At first it looks like the murderer may have killed the wrong person but Wolfe isn't so sure. So he offers the host, the station, and the sponsors (the victim was killed with poison placed in a sample of the soda of one of the sponsors) for the opportunity to hire him to solve the case and they all jump at the chance.In a big case like this, Inspector Cramer is involved and he is very unhappy. His investigation is going nowhere and when Wolfe starts looking into the case he quickly discovers that everyone is lying, even those it would seem have no reason to lie. I'll admit that I was left spinning with no clue as to who the culprit could be. But I also admit that figuring out who did it wasn't what kept me reading.As always, it is the dialog that makes the story. Whether it is between Archie and Wolfe, Archie and the suspects, or Archie and the police, it is always fun.The victim (Cyril Orchard) has been killed by cyanide in a bottle of a soda called Hi-Spot. Wolfe and Archie are working out the mechanics of the killing with samples of Hi-Spot.Archie starts:**************"If Orchard had never never drunk Hi-Spot before he wouldn't know whether it tasted right or not, and even if he didn't like it, they were on the air and just for politeness he would have gulped some down. Anyway he drank enough to kill him, so what does it matter what we think?""He may have drunk it before. Anyway, the murderer would have had to assume that he might have. Would the difference in taste be too great a hazard?""I see." I sipped. "Not so bad." I sipped again. "The only way to really tell is to drink this and then drink some cyanide. Have you got some?""Don't bubble, Archie."**************Even Fritz gets into the act in this one:**************Wolfe put his glass down after two little tastes [of Hi-Spot]. "Good heavens. What the devil is in it, Fritz?"Fritz shook his head. "Ipecac?" He guessed. "Horehound?"**************The truth is that Stout knew how to make his characters unique and interesting and the actual mystery is almost irrelevant.

I am in the process of rereading (listening to the perfectly matched Michael Pritchard) many of the Rex Stout Nero Wolfe/Archie Goodwin mysteries. They hold up very well; in fact, as each novel takes place contemporaneous to its writing, many could be considered period pieces. And be a Villain takes place in 1948 so there are no cell phones, everything is typed, etc. Commercials were done live on the radio, and that features prominently in the mystery as one of the murders is committed on-the-air during a live broadcast, the featured product being spiked with cyanide.The usual marvelous characters are in place: Inspector Cramer, Fritz (the incomparable cook,) Sgt. Stebbins, and delightfully the Asst. police commissioner O’Hara who, because the case is high-profile insist on horning in. (“Wolfe said to tell you. you’re a nincompoop but I’m too polite to mention it.”) For those not familiar with the series, Nero Wolfe (pay absolutely no attention to the execrable TV series with Timothy Hutton and Maury Chaykin - they make me gag) is an enormously fat and brilliant detective who never leaves his house (well, almost never) and his wise-cracking side-kick, Archie who follows Wolfe’s directions and reports conversations verbatim. The language is precise and clever replete with comments such as “Someday, sir, you’ll get on the wrong train by trying to board yours before it arrives,” and “there was no finger pointed without wavering,” and finding a solution by “tramping down the improbabilities.”One could argue that the books are formulaic and I suppose they are, but when you have such a perfect combination, what’s not to enjoy?
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I adore the Nero Wolfe mysteries--and they are terrific audiobooks. Wolfe's and his sidekick Archie Goodwin's obsession with good food and fine flowers actually runs second to their obsession with integrity, logic, and clear-eyed thinking. These are the qualities that make the books such comforts: Wolfe is a person fully in control of his environment -- an increasingly appealing fantasy for me -- but he is also someone who can extract the truth from witnesses simply by the force of his reputation, intellect, and personality. What's not to love? And the food!: pheasant in aspic and three kinds of cheese "for a snack," cornmeal cakes with"autumn honey" --jiminy, I wish chef Fritz were real and could come for a visit....
rex stout at the top of his game. i always imagined that a mystery featuring just archie goodwin would slip all too easily into a fun but cartoony universe (the kind where a villain might respond to archie's quips with a drawled "oh, a wise guy, ehhhhhh?" while chomping on an unlit cigar), whereas a mystery featuring just nero wolfe would quickly stall into inertia and boredom, like a sherlock holmes story where sherlock does the narrating (they do exist. and they are interminably tedious). archie and nero wolfe together, though, make for just the right combination. they are the chocolate & sea salt combo of mysteries!
Nero Wolfe needs money yet again. I know I sound like a broken record, but this is how the majority of the series' books start. He sends Archie Goodwin to see a popular radio talk show host Madeline Fraser (think Oprah Winfrey before the era of TV) to accept his services in investigating a sensational murder which happened recently right in the middle of the show: a guest drank some soft drink from the show sponsors and fell dead. The murder seems to be completely random as there was no way to insure the right victim would receive the bottle with the poison. Every self-respected private detective has his own arch-enemy evil genius, and Nero Wolfe is not an exception. While Sherlock Holmes has Professor Moriarty, Nero Wolfe's guy is named Mr. Zeck. This is the first time he makes an appearance, but Wolfe mentioned he encountered him before and that in case the time comes when he really has to cross his path, he would have to go into deep hiding. This prediction turned out to be prophetic in a later book. Once again, the character interactions are great and some of Archie's antics in dealing with the law agencies made me smile a lot. This time the mystery part was masterfully done as well with Wolfe slowly getting into the bottom of seemingly impossible murder. The books of the series never fail to entertain and amuse; the rating is 4 easy stars. This review is a copy/paste of my LeafMark one:
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