Tag Archives: Rex Stout

A Family Affair

Book #32
Title: “A Family Affair” by Rex Stout
Pages: 152
Format: Kindle
Genre: mystery
Rate: 5/5—a best of 2012 read

I forget who once called them the Three Musketeers. Saul was in the red leather chair, and Fred and Orrie were in the two yellow ones I had moved up to face Wolfe’s desk. Saul had brandy, Orrie had vodka and tonic, Fred had bourbon, I had milk, and Wolfe had beer.

Having read this book before, it held no surprises; but it still was one heck of a story. Well written, good plot, terrific ending—Stout was truly in his prime when he wrote this book. As with all the Nero Wolfe stories, this one has fun with words:

…he said my guess of fifteen hundred dollars was probably too low with the bloated prices of everything from sugar to shingles, and I said I was glad to hear him having fun with words, tossing off an alliteration with two words that weren’t spelled the same.

But mute doesn’t mean pick and choose, it means mute, tongue-tied, aphonous, and don’t forget it.

I’m going to loaf, drift, for the first time in ten days. Read books, drink beer, discuss food with Fritz, logomachize with Archie. Perhaps chat with you if you have occasion to drop in. I’m loose, Mr. Cramer. I’m at peace.”

If you have read other Nero Wolfe stories, and if you read this carefully, you will see enough clues to know the ending. I did the first time I read this book, and for me it didn’t take anything away from the story—it added to my enjoyment, although I was puzzled. So I found this read all the more enjoyable because I wasn’t thinking, “No way.” After all, by now I know these characters.

We’re talking just to show how different we are. If we were just ordinary people we would be shaking hands and beaming at each other or dancing a jig. It’s your turn.” Fritz entered. To announce a meal he always comes in three steps, never four. But seeing us, when he stopped, what he said was, “Something happened.” Damn it, we were and are different. But Fritz knows us. He ought to.

I admit that I both applauded and cried at the end. Applauded because it was the best Wolfe story, ever. Cried because the extra in this edition is the final 2 pages of the book, in Stout’s own handwriting—his last words about a great adventure. There is one more book in the series, published 10 years after Stout’s death, and because I’ve been reading these in publication order, it will be my last book; but truly, “A Family Affair” is the end of the series and should be read as the end of your Nero Wolfe journey. One which hopefully be as satisfactory for you, as it has been for me.

Oh, and that wonderful intro by Thomas Gifford? If this is your first reading of this book, save the intro for last. Although I will share this small portion, as I found it so appropriate:

The years pass but some things endure, I guess, along the lines of Faulkner’s eternal verities. Personally, I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with my belief that a whole lot of things really were a lot better back when I was a kid discovering my first enthusiasms. Certainly better than the fruits of progress that now surround, impinge on, and debase what we once quaintly referred to as “standards.” There are now millions and millions of creatures out there locked into their headphones, or bellowing their heads off in movie theaters, or chanting that the Red Sox or someone else “sucks.” These dullards are as unaware of what once served as concepts of right and wrong, good and bad, true and false, as a dog I know by the name of Bolivia is of space travel and the Hubble Telescope.

I tried several books after A Family Affair, but none of them grabbed me right off—it’s truly difficult to find a good read after enjoying a “best of the best”. The one with the most promise was a spy novel, but it portrayed the spy as horribly lonely and depressed, and I quickly felt lonely and depressed, and dumped the book after 4 chapters. Then … then … good news arrived in my email when I learned that The House at Riverton by Kate Morton, had dropped $9!!!! An amazing drop and I grabbed it immediately, and, fickle reader than I am, I dove in and thoroughly enjoyed—almost forgetting the joy that Rex Stout had just brought into my life.

James Rollins books are all $3.99 for the Kindle, and I bought Ice Hunt to reread. I like his original stand-alone stories the best, and Ice Hunt was my first Rollins, and remains my all time favorite. Now my autographed copy is tucked it away for safekeeping.

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Guilt, seduction and terrorists!

Seven suspects. A favor for a friend. A checkbook balance scraping bottom. The 1960’s. Arab terrorists! Two femme fatales for Archie to “seduce”. Saul “stunts”, and Archie sits in the red leather chair! All this and more was rolled up in my 31st book for 2012: Please Pass the Guilt by Rex Stout.

“That was a first — the first time Inspector Cramer had ever arrived and been escorted to the office in the middle of a session with the hired hands. And Saul Panzer did something he seldom does — he stunted…That left the red leather chair empty and I went and occupied it, sliding back and crossing my legs to show that I was right at home.”

I often learn a new word when reading a Nero Wolfe mystery, and this book was no exception. Even better than learning a new word, was the manner in which it was introduced into the story:

No. Instead of ‘fraud’ make it ‘by subreption.’ It’s more precise and will add to vocabularies.

It was only 172 pages, yet it was a nicely complex mystery and it took the entire gang to solve it. The ending—as well as the near ending that involves Inspector Cramer and Lt. Rowcliff—were very enjoyable. If you desire a rating, I’d give it 4/5, but really, do we need ratings when we can simply say, “most satisfying”?

I’m now reading A Family Affair, which I read many years ago. I know it’s a rough story, but if I’m going to read them all, then this book must be included.

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The tale of rejection

Okay, so I still haven’t written about the Queen. I will. I promise. Today we talk about rejecting books. I used to have one of those hard and fast rules about “so many pages”, but no more. Life is just too short to waste on books I don’t like. Sometimes a book will grab me and then lose me, other times it just doesn’t grab me. I rejected 4 books in short order, and they all have good ratings, so someone finds them enjoyable and worth the time. They weren’t for me, and here’s my reasons why.

First I tried The Shop on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber. This is a long standing series, and it’s adored by many, and it’s about a yarn shop. What’s not to like? Well, I quickly discovered that the main character has (is?) battling cancer—and it was just too close to home for me. I’m 2 years cancer free, and I celebrate every day, and I simply can’t read about cancer. Just can’t.

Then I tried, King’s Fool, historical fiction from the pen of Margaret Campbell Barnes. Again, a well liked and well respected author. I’d waited quite a while to be #1 in line at the library for this book. I like Tudor period historical fiction, and was eager to enjoy this book, but it seemed like more of the same ol’ same ol’ to me, so I dumped it quite quickly. I’ll likely try other books by this author though, as I liked the writing style.

I moved on to Thanks for the Memories by Cecelia Ahern. This book looked so interesting, and this author also has a bucketload of books out, and so I was looking forward to this story. Two pages in and I flat out didn’t like the start of the book. I can’t explain why without spoiling the story, but it just wasn’t for me.

I decided to set my Kindle aside and do something else—like origami butterflies. I’m getting better at those folds! Yeah me.

Last night I started The Taking of the King by Nelson Blish. Wow. Grand story, well written, nice pace, interesting characters and premise—but the format-ting for the Kindle is hor-rid. There are hyph-ens through-out the book, in words in the middle of senten-ces, and my brain kept stut-tering over them, and trying to put them back together and so I was rereading every other sentence. Totally removed me from the story, so I requested (and received) a refund from Amazon. If they ever correct this book, I’ll gladly purchase it.

By this point, I was discouraged; so I turned to a tried and true author and I’m now reading: Please Pass the Guilt by Rex Stout. This is a keeper, and best of all, Nero and Archie won’t reject me either.

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Death of a Dude by Rex Stout

Dude, I just finished my 30th book for 2012. Oh wait, wrong connotation. This dude is a western ranch type dude, and he’s dead. In “Death of a Dude”, Rex Stout takes us out to Montana. Montana, where the creeks run wild, are filled with trout, the cattle graze, locals don’t trust outsiders, and death arrives by a bullet in the back.

I’m not a fan of “westerns”, and so parts of this book had me yawning and wanting the story to be over, but parts were typical and enjoyable Nero Wolfe. I’ve also decided that I have to try my hand at “The Real Montana Trout Deal”, so I’m encouraging hubby to “…go fishing and catch [us] a trout.”

“The Real Montana Trout Deal”
Put a thin slice of ham about three inches wide on a piece of foil, sprinkle some brown sugar on it and a few little scraps of onion, and a few drops of Worcestershire sauce. Lay the trout on it, scraped and gutted but with the head and tail on, and salt it. Repeat the brown sugar and onion and Worcestershire, wrap up the foil around it close, and put it in the oven. If some of the trout are 8 or 9 inches and others are 14 or so, the timing is a problem. Serve in the foil.”

In the end, I was wrong about the murderer, the sheriff likely lost his job, the good guys won, and I found myself saying, “Satisfactory.”

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March wrapup

March roared in like a lion, and left pretty much the same way. We had 5-6 inches snow. Fun. Fun. Fun. Gas climbed to $4.09 at Shell and $4.18 at Chevron. AACCKK! We enjoyed wind, rain and the rare appearance of sun. I’m so ready for summer. Never thought I’d say that. HA! The end of the month Mister got sick, and 3 days later I am sick. Ugh. Still it was a good month with many laughs, and precious moments.

Now on to books …

First, I enjoyed a “30 Day Book Meme”. Second, I enjoyed 4 good books, and one so-so. Please note that a rating of 3/5 is my norm and means I liked the book and recommend it.

Book #8
Title: “The Final Deduction” by Rex Stout
Genre: mystery
Rate: 3/5

Comments: Nothing special about this book, other than the word: subdolous. You’ll have to look it up yourself.

Best quote:

At the dinner table, in between bites of deviled grilled lamb kidneys with a sauce he and Fritz had invented, he explained why it was that all you needed to know about any human society was what they ate. If you knew what they ate you could deduce everything else—culture, philosophy, morals, politics, everything. I enjoyed it because the kidneys were tender and tasty and that sauce is one of Fritz’ best, but I wondered how you would make out if you tried to deduce everything about Wolfe by knowing what he had eaten in the past ten years. I decided you would deduce that he was dead.

Book #9
Title: “The Burglar Who Studied Spinoza” by Lawrence Block
Genre: mystery
Rate: 3/5

Comments: This is the 4th book in the series and I still like all the characters (reoccurring and drop-ins), the writing style, the humor and the mystery. As with most mysteries, they aren’t works of art, or literary genius, they’re just entertaining.

Two good quotes:

…the other still clutching a volume of Robert W. Service’s verses. I had a flash vision of one of them shooting me while the other recited “The Cremation of Sam McGee.”

In the name of ethnic authenticity, a whole lot of New Yorkers are relearning the table manners of messy children.

Book #10
Title: “Into Thin Air”
Author: Krakauer, Jon
Genre: non-fiction
Rate: 3/5


Any person who would seriously consider it is almost by definition beyond the sway of reasoned argument. The plain truth is that I knew better but went to Everest anyway. And in doing so I was a party to the death of good people, which is something that is apt to remain on my conscience for a very long time. Jon Krakauer

This was a very difficult book to read. In it’s own way it was fascinating as I learned bits and pieces about mountain climbing and a little of the technical side of things. Reading about what drives a person to try something like this, knowing full well the huge risk of life and limb, was somewhat intriguing. I never really identified with the various characters, mainly because unlike other non-fictional accounts (and even fictional books), the author wasn’t presenting each person in depth—he was relating a timeline accounting of an event. Still I found myself holding my breath with every page as I waited to see what happened next. I already knew who survived, and so I wasn’t wishing it wasn’t going to be so. Still I had to separate myself from the horrible tragedy that was unfolding with every page, otherwise I couldn’t face the next page. My heart felt terribly heavy with each loss, and I ached for the lost climber’s family and friends. At the end, I felt exhausted and a bit frustrated.

In pondering how this disaster could have occurred, it is imperative to remember that lucid thought is all but impossible at 29,000 feet. Wisdom comes easily after the fact.

Do we know the full story? I doubt that anyone will every know the full story. Too many of those involved perished on the mountain; and of those who survived, there are still some conflicting accounts. The conflicts are understandable given the conditions they climbed in and its effects on the human body, still it would be nice if this could all be wrapped up in paper and tied with a bow—but life is seldom that way.

…in the snow, horribly frostbitten but still alive after a night without shelter or oxygen, moaning unintelligibly. Not wanting to jeopardize their ascent by stopping to assist him, the Japanese team continued climbing toward the summit.

“We were too tired to help. Above 8,000 meters is not a place where people can afford morality.” 

My actions—or failure to act—played a direct role in the death of Andy Harris. And while Yasuko Namba lay dying on the South Col, I was a mere 350 yards away, huddled inside a tent, oblivious to her struggle, concerned only with my own safety. The stain this has left on my psyche is not the sort of thing that washes off after a few months of grief and guilt-ridden self-reproach. Jon Krakauer

Recommend for those who enjoy non-fiction of all kinds, those interested in climbing, or those with an interesting in this particular disaster.

Book #11
Title: “Homicide Trinity” by Rex Stout
Genre: mystery
Rate: 3.5/5

Comments: Unlike most of the Nero Wolfe 3 story collections, I enjoyed all 3 stories equally well.

  • In “Eeny Meeny Murder Mo” (March 1962) we have a locked door murder. Only the locked door is the front door to Wolfe’s house!
  • In “Death of a Demon” (June 1961) I loved that Nero showed off his orchids to his client—his female client! Has Wolfe finally taken on a murderess? Was his vanity flattered by her love of orchids? Read the story and find out.
  • Counterfeit for Murder” (January 1961) stars “Hattie”, and Hattie is irresistible. I adored her, and I loved this story line from beginning to end.

Book #12
Title: “Kill Shot” by Vince Flynn
Genre: political thriller
Rate: 2.75/5

Comments: I find most offerings from Vince Flynn to be 3.5-4 star books, but this book was simply okay and not up to the standards I’ve come to expect from Flynn. Given the circumstances of his life, I give him credit for moving ahead and continuing to write. I recommend this book for fans of the series as it’s a back story, but for those who are new to the “Mitch Rapp” series, skip this and start at the real beginning: Transfer of Power (Mitch Rapp #3) or The Third Option (Mitch Rapp #4).

DNF: Hit Man by Lawrence Block: this stultified my mental processes and I gave it up after 2 chapters.

Would You Like A Slap With That?: 30 Painfully-True Vignettes In The Life Of A Waiter by anonymous. There’s a reason this vicious, vile, nasty person did put his/her name to this book: they’d be ashamed to show their face in public. The vignettes that are shared are rude, mean, nasty. Personally, if you find your job this distasteful, you should give it up. I’ll never look at my waitperson the same way again. I dumped this after 3 stories.

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