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Three Men Out (1991)

Three Men Out (1991)
4.01 of 5 Votes: 1
0553245473 (ISBN13: 9780553245479)
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Three Men Out (1991)
Three Men Out (1991)

About book: The anthology consists of three novellas. Invitation to Murder.A man who is entirely dependent on his uncle to provide for his living (at least he is honest about it) was worried that one of the three young women working for his wealthy relative his matrimonial plans for the latter which would put his income source in great peril. He asked Nero Wolfe to find out which one of the three is the threat. The detective thinks Archie Goodwin is a great expect on women and Archie himself shares this delusion, so off he went to investigate. Most of Wolfe's investigations are related to murders, and this time he was not disappointed as Archie soon stumbles upon one. In fact things became so intense Wolfe who practically never gets outside has to do it this time: the mystery was quite complicated and required his personal presence. The Zero Clue.The plot strongly relates to that of Isaac Asimov's Foundation. Both of these were written at approximately the same time when the idea was popular. A college professor discovered a statistical formula which allowed him to calculate the probability of human behavior and make fairly accurate predictions of various events. He was so successful that he quit his job and began his scientific oracle work - so to speak - full time making big money. One day his was found murdered, but not before he left a clue indicating Nero Wolfe might help with the identity of culprit and $500 dollars as a fee for detective's services. Wolfe thinks it should be easy money and decided to solve the mystery. This novella contains an interesting bit on the history of mathematics related to one of the most important discovery - extensively used in modern life - in the field during the time when none of the modern nations existed. This Won't Kill You.To make a long story short, Nero Wolfe broke his habit of never leaving his house and went to see a baseball game only to find out it was fixed in the blatantly obvious way and one of the most promising rookie players murdered. The team owner asked Wolfe to investigate the crime and Archie Goodwin whose favorite team just lost an important game due to a foul play is happy to help. This is a unique story in sense that both Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin solved the mystery at the same time independently using different approaches. The former used his deductive skills and the latter legwork and nosiness which actually put his life in a real danger. By the way the mystery was very simple and obvious once Wolfe explained it, but there were enough red herrings to keep it hidden.The final rating is my usual 4 stars for a book of the series.

This was a very enjoyable collection, though I can't explain too much why I thought so. It's not that the mysteries were superlative or incredibly extraordinary, but for some reason (perhaps the period in my life in which I read them) this was a refreshing group of stories. The first story about the dangers of upsetting extended family in-laws was the least sparkling of the group, but the bizarre twists during the story, especially Archie tricking Wolfe into coming to the scene, make it different enough to be enjoyable. The second story, similarly, is another impressive mix of little movement in the story, a whole lot of Wolfe talking to people, Archie appearing at the wrong place at the wrong time (as is his wont), and a very clever twist that would be more frustrating to us ignorant boffs were it handled/presented by a lesser writer. The extended red herring throughout (especially the way it builds and builds upon itself as we become more aware of it) was definitely an enjoyable misdirection. The final story is a strange mix of baseball skullduggery and a wholly atypical scene of genuine danger, with Archie really shining on his own, though likely in ways in which we may not approve. This was a very fine mix of unusual stories that really sparked well with me.
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Sometimes in a murder mystery, the detective arrives on the scene after the body has been found, and must gather clues about the crime after the fact. Think of Agent Dale Cooper in Twin Peaks, or any episode of Law and Order. Some murder mysteries unfold with the murder happening right under the detective's nose. I like that kind better because everything that happens from the beginning could be a clue. The first novella in this series, Invitation to Murder, is structured that way and, of the three, it was the one I liked the best. It is not impossible to figure out who did it before Wolfe reveals all. The second novella was the weakest, to me, with a lot of obviously extraneous informatioand an abrupt ending.
Alison C
Three Men Out is another in Rex Stout's long series of books about Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin, this one being a compilation of three novellas, as most titles in this series with the number "Three" in them are. In "Invitation to Murder," we meet a man whose wealthy father left his fortune to the man's sister; when the sister dies, the fortune passes to her husband, a disabled man who appears willing to continue to send an allowance to the man, but who is being pursued by three women who might subsequently cut him off without a cent. The man wants Wolfe to investigate and so Archie goes to the household, only to find the client is the first victim. "The Zero Clue" concerns a mathematician-turned-prognosticator, who is making a good living by resolving questions of probability for individuals, for a hefty fee of course. When he suspects a client of criminal activities, the mathematician sends for Nero Wolfe, but he is killed before Archie has had time to do more than notice the six people in the waiting room. It is among those six people that the criminal and now murderer must be found, but will Wolfe have enough clues to solve the case? Finally, "This Won't Kill You" features Wolfe leaving his house to attend, of all things, the seventh and last World Series baseball game; when four New York players are seen to be drugged, causing the team to lose the World Series to Boston, and another player turns up dead, Wolfe must try to determine who did what to whom, relying on Archie's knowledge of women and baseball....Four highly enjoyable tales, not at the top of the game in Rex Stout's world but solid and entertaining. As always, recommended.
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