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Death Times Three (1985)

Death Times Three (1985)
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4 of 5 Votes: 2
ISBN
0553254251 (ISBN13: 9780553254259)
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English
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bantam books
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Death Times Three (1985)
Death Times Three (1985)

About book: I would not call this anthology shameless cash grab after Rex Stout's death; cash grab - yes, shameless - no. I will try to explain below. The anthology consists of three novellas: Bitter end.Wolfe's personal cook extraordinaire Fritz was sick, so the detective had to cook for himself with really disastrous results. By the way, from the rest of the series I had an impression that Wolfe himself was a decent cook, but not here. The poor guy fell really low and had to use canned food only to realize it contained rat poison - in harmless quantities fortunately. Wolfe was about to send Archie Goodwin to the food manufacturer to get to the bottom of what he considers a personal insult, but at exactly this moment a woman came whose problems were strangely connected to Wolfe's quest. It did not take too much time afterwards for Archie to find a dead body. This is the only never-before-seen Nero Wolfe tale, but it also happened to be a reworking of a story from Stout's lesser-known series Tecumseh Fox published before this anthology. Frame-up for murder.The picture above shows exactly what I imagine first when the subject of high fashion comes up. Back to the story: a sister of high fashion designer came to Nero Wolfe asking him to help rid her brother off a woman who seems to have way too much influence over him suspecting blackmail is involved. No sooner Wolfe agrees to act - in his case it always means he sends Archie to act - a dead body drops by to say hi. Wolfe gets very suspicious about the circumstances.One of the times when Wolfe could not leave seemingly obvious case along because he feels somebody was trying to make a fool of him. His self-esteem cannot allow it, so Archie gets to go and stir the hornet's nest. This story is almost the same as novella Murder is No Joke from anthology And Four to Go. The only differences are the age of one of the characters and the initial build-up which I actually like more than the original story. For this reason I shamelessly plagiarized myself in this part of the review. Assault on a brownstone.An old unattractive lady came to Wolfe for consultation. Usually this is not the type of people who need his services considering the fees for said services, but Archie Goodwin decided to teach his boss a lesson and let her in. Before both detectives knew it they had a dead body, a bunch of counterfeit money, pissed off police, and equally pissed off Secret Service (Department of Treasury) on their hands. This beginning and all characters in the story came directly from novella Counterfeit for Murder from anthology Homicide Trinity. For this reason I shamelessly plagiarized myself once again. The victim and most of the investigation is different here. This time a very colorful character of the original tale is replaced by fairly generic attractive young woman which gave Archie more screen time leaving less time for Wolfe to investigate. The absence of the character I mentioned is really a big letdown. As you can see the only original story is the first one and you have to stretch the definition of "original" to call the story that. Please do not get me wrong and it is very nice to receive Nero Wolfe stories - written by Rex Stout himself - long time after his death. Unfortunately both detectives feel a little off. As a big fan of the series I really cannot and will not rate any Nero Wolfe story anything less than 3 stars, so this is the rating. Please do not start reading the series with this collection and if you still have to, do not judge the rest of the books by this offering.

Another Nero Wolfe threesome--that is to say, a collection of three novellas featuring our favorite fattie and his back-talking sidekick, Archie Goodwin.In 'Bitter End', Wolfe partakes of a jar of pate that has been laced with quinine. He is, of course, outraged at the insult to his palate, and vows to catch the guilty party. So off Archie goes to Tingley's Tidbits to snoop around. But when Arthur Tingley himself winds up with his throat cut, things get complicated--not least because Wolfe's client (the lovely niece of the dearly departed) is a prime suspect.In 'Frame-Up for Murder', a lovely French girl convinces Archie petition Wolfe on her behalf--to rid her brother of an unpleasant woman who is destroying his clothing design business. But when Wolfe and Archie get on the phone with the source of the problem, they are greeted by a torrent of insults, a scream, a moan, and a thud. The woman is found dead in her office, and it seems that Wolfe and Archie were ear-witnesses to the murder. But Wolfe isn't so sure. He suspects that someone is trying to make a monkey of him, and decides to get even by catching the killer.Finally, in 'Assault on a Brownstone', Hattie Annis, the eccentric proprietor of a boarding house for folks in show business, shows up on the doorstep requesting an appointment with the man himself. After being told to return during Wolfe's normal office hours, she entrusts Archie with a package and departs. But before she can return, she is struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver in a stolen car. When Archie unwraps the package, he finds $9,000 in counterfeit bills--indicating that one of the boarders at Ms. Annis's place isn't what he or she seems. Knowing that the Department of the Treasury would rather catch a counterfeiter than a murderer, and determined to see justice done, Archie decides to solve the murder himself, with or without Wolfe's help. Fortunately, the Treasury sends men to search Wolfe's house from top to bottom, which so riles Wolfe that he agrees to assist Archie in tracking down the murderer/counterfeiter.All three of these stories appear elsewhere in Stout's writings: 'Bitter End' is a re-working of the full-length novel Bad for Business, featuring Stout's lesser known protagonist, private detective Tecumseh Fox. 'Frame-Up for Murder' is an expanded re-write of 'Murder Is No Joke', a novella included in the Nero Wolfe foursome And Four to Go. And 'Assault on a Brownstone' was an early draft of 'Counterfeit for Murder', a novella included in Homicide Trinity. This collection was published posthumously in 1985, and I suspect the publishers were so eager for some excuse to churn out more of Stout's stuff that they were more than happy to slap together three previously 'unpublished' stories, even if the mysteries themselves had been published before, albeit in slightly different form. Still, it's interesting to see how Stout changed the stories--allowing some characters to live, killing off others, and tweaking the details to fit a new detective. For the hardcore Wolfe fan, this is a good collection to peruse, but for the casual reader or new initiate, it would probably be better to stick to the stories published in Stout's lifetime.Meanwhile, I think Prichard's narration is growing on me. I still don't love the way he voices Archie, but he's got Wolfe down pat and does a decent job with the supporting characters.
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Reviews
Alger
Posthumous publications are always a problem because you have to assume that the author had some reason for not printing the story. In this case we have a mixed bag of three novellas that are either lesser known but published rewrites, or were discarded drafts of stories that appeared under another name. The Bitter End rewrite of the Tecumseh Fox novel Bad for Business is easily the best of the lot. It is fully populated and is only as ridiculous as your average Wolfe novel. In his introduction, McAleer finds it remarkable the ease with which Stout could reframe the novel into a typical Wolfe mystery, but this is less of a surprise when you consider that the Wolfe mystery was Stout's default style and that the Fox novel was the difficult transposition. The premise probably also appealed to Stout on the basis that he had the chance to motivate Wolfe into a case using his precious taste buds. The story itself is at par with the rest of the series, one needs to overlook some improbable motivations and some page filling mechanization to get to the end, but it all reads well and is a happy addition to the Wolfe canon. In comparison Frame Up for Murder is a silly sub-par effort that stretches credulity. The appeal of a fashion-based mystery must have always floated around in Stout's mind given his wife's participation in the industry, but this novella is a sloppy effort that barely introduces the suspects, gives us a meandering investigation, and barely pins together a bit of misdirection to cover the actions that open the story and make them appear more sinister than they are. Essentially this is a story where Stout tries to move so quickly that you don't notice how thin the story is. Similarly, Assault on a Brownstone is simply pieced together. The idea is similar to that of the Bitter End, where events conspire to outrage Wolfe personally, but this time the invasion of his home by T-Men is the highlight of the novella. From there the plot gets muddy and lacks a solid ending. In the last few pages Stout throws a Hail Mary and closes out the story before you can notice that you have been cheated. That said, there is here an attempt to develop a richer plot than the previous story. Given the real effort Stout put into developing the individual pieces, my guess is that it was the lack of a real ending that stopped this version from going to press. Not having read the final version, The Counterfeiters Knife that is just a guess, but this story feels half written.One note here: This volume, and several previous forwards to books by Stout's biographer McAleer, all make the claim that Stout was a prodigy who wrote his noels on a single draft and passed them on to the publisher. Yet, this triplet of stories and several of the others give lie to this bit of myth building. It is clear that Stout did minimal revisions, and most of his novels were cranked out at a true pulp novelist pace. Still, he did rewrite, and he did revise, and he did send letters to his publishers discussing proposed changes. There is nothing wrong with this, and if this collection is any measure, the we should be glad that Stout had some editorial sense after all.
Stven
This is an unexpected treat! Here we have three Nero Wolfe novellas anthologized for the first time in 1985, a decade subsequent to Rex Stout's death in 1975. My first reading of the Nero Wolfe canon, regarded as 33 novels and 38 novellas until Death Times Three, began around 1973; thus for the last 30 years I had assumed I'd read everything there was to read. Here are three tales, each for a different reason a rewrite for Stout, which have the master's touch and bear reading on their own.These are frankly not among the very best of the tales of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin, but if you've enjoyed the other 71, you'll enjoy these three as well.In the introduction by Stout's biographer John J. McAleer the circumstances of how these versions came to be written are detailed, and if you are interested I leave you to his description.One interesting fact from the introduction is that Stout, contrary to the practice of 90% of working writers, basically DID NOT SECOND-DRAFT any of his fiction! How we read it is how he wrote it the first time. I'm still shaking my head in amazement about that.
Rusty
My penchant for vintage mysteries recently prompted me to pick up this one. All three mysteries were most entertaining. And, I love the interaction between Nero Wolf and Archie Goodwin which adds so much to the reads. This novel included a most interesting introduction by John McAleer, Stout's official biographer, whose insights into the author's character and work were fascinating. The first tale was "Bitter End" wherein Archie finds himself involved with a lovely young woman - again! Archie and Wolf find themselves inadvertently playing cupid for a young couple, solve the case and discover who killed Arthur Kingley. Yes, The murderer is an unexpected individual!Second came "Frame-Up for Murder." A young woman asks for Wolf's help for her famous designer brother. In addition, a famous actress commits suicide. It is Wolf who connect the actress's death with an earlier murder and uncovers just how he and Archie were duped by the murderer.Number three was "Assault on Brownstone." An elderly woman owner of a rooming house is murdered after she went to see Nero Wolf, run over by a car. Since the roomers are actors, Wolf and Archie must interview them to find a motive. The motive is the making and passing of counterfeit money and the Treasury Department is involved. The investigators must tread carefully to avoid breaking the law themselves.
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