As for Wolfe, he's playing snake charmer in a case more deadly than a cobra and whistling a seductive tune he hopes will catch a killer with poison in his heart.
Stout fellow: listen to all of our Nero Wolfe mysteries, including classic radio programs!
©1934 Rex Stout; (P)1994 Books on Tape Inc.
"Fer-de-Lance is the first mystery novel ever written by Rex Stout....[it] will be welcomed by the legions of Rex Stout fans and serve as a welcome introduction to a whole new generation of mystery buffs." (Midwest Book Review)
"A 1934 period mystery that is remarkably fresh." (The Roanoke Times)
This first Nero Wolf novel is worth a read because this is where the series started. However, the tropes are not yet completely set. Nero and Archie are great but not yet the more fully developed personalities we know from some of the later books. Still, if you're a Nero Wolf fan you really can't live without it.
I just finished listening to “Fer-de-Lance”. It was written in 1934 and is the first book in a series that runs to more than 40 books. The Nero Wolfe series is considered by many to be one of the great mystery series of all time.
There are fashions and fads in publishing just as there are in clothing. At the time Rex Stout was writing, the fashion for crime novels was for them to be short. I think they usually ran 180 to 200 pages. Just before listening to this book, I listened to a rather horrible and over-long science fiction novel, and starting this was like a refreshing breath of cool mountain air. The Sci Fi novel ran nearly 24 hours. Fer-de-Lance, at 8.5 hours, was about a third as long. This means that Rex Stout had to make every word in this novel count. The plot had to be tight; he didn’t have any room in his word count for long, preachy speeches or irrelevant subplots. This novel may have been a third the length of the other, but I got three times or ten times or 50 times the pleasure from it.
And yet in that 8.5 hours, he manages to give us vivid characters who are instantly recognizable by the way they speak, a complicated mystery, and a great deal of humor. He does not find it necessary to assault us with bad language, gratuitous sex (or any sex at all), or gruesome details of gory or prolonged deaths. Thank goodness.
I was introduced to this series as a teenager, and every few years I have to reread them. I’m not sure I’ve read every one in the series. It used to be hard to get the whole series. The series was written over more than 40 years so some of them always seemed to be out of print. I’m not sure all of them are available now, but Audible has 19 of the 47 (By my count. I could be wrong.) Kindle has most of them, but I’m not sure if they have them all.
Do not be afraid to start the series because you can’t get them all. This is one series in which each book truly stands alone. You don’t need to read them in any particular order. However, since they were written over such a long period of time, I like to read those I can get in order by publication date because I get some amazement and pleasure out of watching the changes in society over time. For instance, in this book, cars still have rumble seats, housemaids earn $1.00 per week, and biplanes are still the standard. In one of the books in the series written 20 years later, Archie (Wolfe’s assistant) boards an airplane in New York and flies to Italy while wearing his gun in a shoulder holster and nobody even questions him about it.
Now a word about the narrator. I think all the books in this series are read by Michael Prichard. He narrates a lot of crime and suspense novels. He does a good job. I can tell Wolfe from Archie by his voice. I have no complaints about the way he does women’s voices. I am sorry that he doesn’t do accents because there are people in these books that definitely have them. But on the other hand, you probably couldn’t find a single narrator who could do as many accents as you would need for this series, so I guess we have to be grateful for what we get.
Bottom line: I recommend this entire series. Big time.
I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.
This is the first Nero Wolfe novel I have listened to and at first I found the narration off-putting. The narration seemed a little bland for the characters, but the more I listened, the more I enjoyed the narration. By the end, I was fully engaged. Of course the characters are unique, quirky, and fun. The story is interesting and the mystery is not stupid. This is the first Nero Wolfe novel and the characters are not quite as interesting as in later novels, but this was an excellent listen.
Unfortunately this recording has a number of pops, drops, and distortion, not too bad, but distracting and not up to the normal Audible quality.
Mystery reader (especially series) and Austen lover
Published in 1934, Fer-De-Lance is the first of more than 40 Nero Wolfe books written by Rex Stout. This classic detective story introduces Nero Wolfe, a very fat and somewhat arrogant genius who grows orchids, eats only gourmet meals prepared by his cook, never leaves his house, and solves murders and other mysteries for very high fees. We also meet Archie Goodwin, Wolfe's secretary, gopher, guy Friday, and general assistant, who is the narrator of all the Wolfe books and does the legwork in the mystery solving business. Wolfe is at times taciturn, rarely expresses any emotion, and is often enigmatic. Archie Goodwin is a bit of a tough guy, a bit of a ladies' man, often utters wisecracks to the cops and others, and sometimes argues with Wolfe. Together they make a great detective, and their adventures are entertaining and sometimes informative. The books were written from 1934 through 1975, and often provide an interesting picture of the changing American society during those times.
Fer-De-Lance has an interesting and entertaining puzzle. The narration by Michael Prichard is quite good, although I could have wished for a bit more of a smart-aleck tone when delivering wisecracks.
I first discovered Nero Wolfe in my early mystery reading days (when paperbacks cost 35 to 50 cents), and read most of them I think. However, that was long ago, and I am delighted at having the chance to "read" them again.
These are mysteries that have some action, some emotion and some violence, but the primary focus is the puzzle and the relationship of Wolfe and Archie. So if you like a mystery that doesn't have a bunch of graphic sex or violence, I recommend Nero Wolfe.
The book is wonderful, the narrator is perfect--so why didn't I give this 5 stars? Because there are gaps in the audio recording. Small ones, though some go on for a few words. Generally the book can be understood, but the gaps are problematic. I wonder if some audio genius at Audible can look into this and correct the gaps.
If you have never met Nero Wolf and Archie Goodwin this is a good place to start. As all of Rex Stouts mysteries this is a fine tale with a chance to meet fun characters. After you get to know the main characters in this series you begin to enjoy the humor of the interplay between Wolf an Archie as these two incompatibles form an outstanding detective team. I recommend all Nero Wolf mysteries.
Lord, let me be an instrument of your peace.
I have read all the Nero Wolfe stories, and just loved them. Nero Wolfe took over Perry Mason's place as my favorite fictional literary character. Now, listening to Wolfe and Archie in action is just as fun. Rex Stout's prose stands alone. Very nicely done narration, too.
Michael Pritchard's voicing is wonderful, and he does Archie Justice.
This was a wonderful first entry into the series. The characters were well developed making you want to learn more about them. The narration was Wonderful. Some minor Technical glitches. Overall will listen to it again and again.
I have read or listened to more than a dozen Nero Wolfe mysteries and this one is the first I felt compelled to review. Others I have enjoyed due to their wonderful and sometimes even humorous indulgence of my sense of fair play. The bad guys who seem beyond the reach of more pedestrian justice are brought not only to justice but to heel by the depth of Wolfe's understanding. Where the police would give us flat but proper procedural justice, Nero Wolfe, when the circumstances of the case demands it, satisfies not only the impersonal demands of the legal system, but the specific demands of every character involved, sometimes even the murderer's.
This particular story delighted me because the ending caught me so thoroughly immersed in Archie's viewpoint that I was as furious with Wolfe as Archie was, and was ready to walk away in disgust. Then the final wrap up showed me that once again Wolfe had thought of everything and delivered a nuanced justice that kept my little gray cells spinning for a long time.
Call me Ahab
This audio book has a good mystery plot, the voice characterizations of Michael Pritchard are spot-on. There is the ever-present humor that the narrator character, Archie Goodwin, brings to the story.
Other Rex Stout stories that are comparable are "Some Buried Caesar", "The League of Frightened Men". No other mystery writer that I'm aware of has this combination of irreverent humor and a good mystery that is "closed" and actually admits of the possibility of figuring out "who-done-it".
Prichard's characterizations of Archie, Inspector Cramer and Nero Wolfe are unforgettable and the interactions of the three in Wolve's office are unequaled.
Like all the books that I enjoy the most, I liked to savor Fer-De-Lance by reading in small sections and sometimes re-reading them before going on.
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