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Fer-de-Lance (2010)

Fer-de-Lance (2010)
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4.01 of 5 Votes: 1
ISBN
0553278193 (ISBN13: 9780553278194)
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English
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bantam crimeline
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Fer-de-Lance (2010)
Fer-de-Lance (2010)

About book: I was excited about reading Nero Wolfe. Not only is he a classic detective, but a favorite writer, Philip Jose Farmer, admired Wolfe enough to include him in the Wold Newton family. Unfortunately, Fer-de-Lance was a disappointment, likely my first and last foray into the series. Not because of anything it did wrong, but because it did so few things well. In his first adventure, Nero Wolfe investigates two seemingly unrelated murders. One an immigrant metal-worker knifed to death, and the other a famous university president that suddenly collapses during a round of golf, originally ruled pulmonary embolism. There are admirable qualities to the work. Wolfe is the eccentric genius shut up inside a building he owns, never venturing out. Archie Goodwin is his tough, street-mart man on the street and narrator, interviewing witnesses and gathering evidence. It serves as an interesting bridge between the British sleuth-heavy mysteries of Doyle, Chesterton, and Christie from 1900-1930 to the hard-boiled American private detective crime noir of Chandler, Hammett, and Cain that started around the same time, the 30s, as Nero Wolfe.Both Wolfe and Goodwin are decently written and likable enough, if never as memorable or interesting as a Sherlock Holmes, Watson, Hercule Poirot, etc.And I like that the book plunges the reader straight into the action, despite being the first installment. No formal introductions, and constant references to past cases.Unfortunately, this is just window dressing for a weak novel. The actual sleuthing and mystery component is damn weak. There are no stunning, elaborate deductions that made Sherlock Holmes or Father Brown such a joy to read through. No baffling case unraveled by a creative vision. For all the talk of Wolfe's genius, everything he figures out is rudimentary. With the exception of the (very far-fetched and impractical) murder weapon, discovered a fourth of the way through the book, the few remaining deductions are those immediately obvious to the reader. Inspector Lestrade himself would have no problems with this case! And the action side with Goodwin is equally lacking. No exciting situations, vivid descriptions, or even amusing dialogue. I will give Stout credit for trying to sound slick with his banter, but it never connects. I can't dismiss this purely due to era, although Goodwin does use some 30's idiom and slang. After all, Rafael Sabbatini, writing in English a decade or two earlier, created the most wonderfully charismatic, funny, memorable dialogue I have ever read in an adventure novel. Goodwin's quips are at best a third-rate imitation. The murderer turns out to be the most obvious suspect. And Nero Wolfe realizes the killer's identity 100 whole pages from the end. I was hoping there would be a twist and a different culprit, but alas. The book headed to the dull direction I was afraid it would.Finally, it should be mentioned that the novel is a solid 300 pages. And with fewer deductions and less action than a good short story mystery, the whole affair is very plodding. The tale often seems to be going nowhere, simply biding its time, with nothing of interest occurring. Perhaps this was meant to mirror an actual murder investigation, despite how absurd many elements of the story were. But that's why we read mystery books and not exhaustive true crime reports.Overall, this is a competently-written, but plodding, mediocre, utterly unexceptional work. I can only recommend Fer-de-Lance for mystery completionists.

I bought this book several years ago when I was trying to expand my mystery novel reading beyond Agatha Christie. I remember reading the first few pages before becoming bored and tossing it aside in favor of a more contemporary work. I picked it up about a week ago, expecting a quick, fun read, but was sorely disappointed.I found myself disliking nearly every character in the book, including the corpulent, agoraphobic Nero Wolfe and his closest employee, the wise-cracking, milk-drinking Archie Goodwin. Rex Stout attempted to give a backstory to both of the characters, seeing as how this was this first book in a series of 73 novels(!), but it was woefully inadequate. The plot jumped around way too much for me to follow it well, and I consider myself a sharp, observant reader. Characters popped in and out of the book, and events happened either too quickly or off the page for me to comprehend. The titular snake, the fer-de-lance, doesn't make an appearance until the last 100 pages of the book, and is disposed of entirely too quickly and anti-climactically.The thing I disliked most about the novel, however, was the blatant racism and sexism rampant throughout. I know this book and its characters were products of their time, but Archie and his compatriots spouted so much hateful talk it was hard to believe it didn't signify something deeper. Also, I was disturbed throughout by Wolfe's blase attitude toward justice; he seems to prefer tending his massive orchid collection, eating gourmet food, and guzzling gallons of beer. He won't rouse himself to go out of the house, or to even rise in courtesy. He doesn't seem to care about finding the culprit, he only does so to satisfy his ego and acquire money. When compared with other sleuths' motives like Holmes' zeal for the "game" or Poirot's compassion and adherence to justice, Wolfe's fall sadly short. In the end, reading this book became a chore, and I had to push myself to finish. It's safe to say I won't be continuing to read the adventures of Goodwin and Wolfe.
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Reviews
Graziano
Il signor Nero Wolfe? Sono Sara Barstow.- Accomodatevi - disse Wolfe. - Mi vorrete scusare, spero. Per ragioni di statica non mi alzo che in casi di urgenza. (76)t… ma da troppo tempo Wolfe m’aveva insegnato che l’angolo dove non arriva la luce e’ proprio quello dove e’ rotolato il soldino. (126)Calma, signorina Maffei - fece Wolfe, agitando un dito verso di lei. - Temo non sia ancora giunto il momento della vostra vendetta. Non dimenticate che in seno alla nostra societa’ le persone civili e prudenti commettono i loro delitti soltanto sotto il riparo di complicate regole che permettono loro di sfuggire a ogni responsabilita’. (221)
Jamie
This is the first Nero Wolfe mystery novel, published in 1934, and it was way more fun than I was expecting. It’s set in a New York city in the grip of the Great Depression, at the end of prohibition.Wolfe is a sedentary, obese, eccentric genius who rarely leaves his house. ("Be seated. You must pardon me; for engineering reasons I arise only for emergencies.") The story is narrated by his more spry assistant Archie Goodwin, who does all of the leg work, driving around town in his Roadster and offering generous $3 bribes for information from witnesses.The murder mystery itself is pretty good, but more interesting is the lively interaction between Wolfe and Archie. Archie is an employee who follows orders, but not without making his opinions known.I look forward to more of these - there are tons of them, all the way through 1974!
Paul
When I was young, when people heard my name, they often commented on the name Stout and asked "Like Rex Stout, the author?" Apparently there were a lot of fans out there of Rex Stout and his series of books on the private investigator Nero Wolfe. So finally I broke down and read one. And to my surprise, I liked it. Since the storyline takes place during the 1930s, some of the phrases are a bit hackneyed, but then again, they may have been original at the time. The plot of this book was very engaging, and the mystery had me guessing until the very end. I may even read more of these.
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