In "The Christmas Party", Archie and his fiancée attend an office party where Wolfe condescends to uncharacteristic theatrics. His dramatic technique is good, but it isn't enough to clear him from suspicion of murder. The "Easter Parade" tempts Wolfe to commit petty larceny for an orchid. Though that crime goes unpunished, the inevitable murder doesn't. "A Fourth of July Picnic" has Wolfe scheduled for an unprecedented appearance as an orator. But his day in the sun is rained out by murder. The last selection, "Murder Is No Joke", is a whodunit in a couturier's salon, where a murderer is dressed to kill and kill again.
Stout fellow: explore our list of Nero Wolfe mysteries, including novels and classic radio programs.
©1958 Rex Stout; (P)1997 Books on Tape
"It is always a treat to read a Nero Wolfe mystery. The man has entered our folklore." (The New York Times)
I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.
This book contains four Nero Wolfe short stories; Christmas Party, Easter Parade, Fourth of July Picnic, and Murder Is No Joke (later expanded into the novel Frame-Up for Murder). Although I love short stories in general, I have not enjoyed the Nero Wolfe short stories as much as the novels. I really like the way Stout develops the story and characters in his novels, while his short stories often are missing something for me and generally seem rushed. Two of these four shorts were pleasurable exceptions. I really liked Christmas Party and Easter Parade. Both of these two stories had limited twists, but what they had were quite good. The other two were not bad. The narration was first-rate at usual.
Rabbi Steve the Storyteller
The story Murder is No Joke is the shorter & weaker version of Frame-up for Murder, which appears in Death Times Three. The much improved Flora Gallant in that story is much more interesting & gives Archie a stronger motivation for getting involved.
Fourth of July Picnic is one of my least favorite Wolfe & Archie stories. Weak plot & almost no detection. Very weak characters.
Easter Parade is not far ahead or behind (depending on how you look at it). Only the character of Tabby makes it almost likable.
The best story, Christmas Party, also suffers from mostly flat characters, archetypes & stereotypes, and only Santa Claus makes it fun.
Overall, maybe my least favorite Archie & Nero book.
HOWEVER, even the *worst* of Wolfe is better than almost anything else when read by Michael Prichard. His rendition of the regulars, as well as a few of the "guest stars", is worth the price of admission.
We also get a thumbnail autobiography of Wolfe in one story, that fleshes out (sorry for the pun there) Wolfe's early pre-NYC days a bit.
Christmas, Easter & 4th of July are the backdrops of 3 of these short stories. All 4 are extremely entertaining, the 4th was part of another short story collection but so worth another listen.
Rex Stout was always masterful with his treatment of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. But he was at his absolute best in his short stories/novellas. All of these shorties are tightly woven, fast-paced, and immediately interesting. The characters are diverse, and the storylines are quick. Nero even ventures far afield in some cases...an added bonus! Strongly recommend this one!
And, having him read to me with the bemused indifference that makes Archie Goodwin one of my favorite sidekicks is Heaven. These books are keepers to listen to over and over and enjoy the idiosyncratic love affair that makes the Wolfe-Goodwin relationship. Imagine Dr. Watson doing stand up as Holmes pontificates at him.
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