There are few people Nero Wolfe respects, and Lon Cohen of the New York Gazette is one of them. So when Cohen asks for a favor, Wolfe is inclined to listen. According to Cohen, someone wants to kill the Gazette's gossip columnist, Cameron Clay. Death threats are a regular hazard for Clay, who's hurled insults and accusations at every bold-faced name in the five boroughs. But the latest threats have carried a more sinister tone. The columnist has narrowed his potential killers down to five people.
"Good book, wrong reader"
The gun was fired close to Charles Childress’s head, and his were the only fingerprints on it, forcing the police to conclude that the author committed suicide. But his friends know this is impossible, because Childress loved himself far too much. He had just begun attracting fame, writing new mysteries starring the iconic Sergeant Barnstable, and he had bright hopes for the future. His publisher hires corpulent genius Nero Wolfe to determine who cut Childress’s career short, and the detective finds no dearth of suspects.
Wolfe investigates a sticky matter of Cola Wars espionage. For the men of Madison Avenue, the battle between soft drink giants Cherr-o-key and AmeriCherry seems heaven-sent. For years now, the firm of Mills/Lake/Ryman has fought to help Cherr-o-key become the nation’s favorite fizzy cherry soda, but each time they come up with a new slogan, mascot, or jingle, AmeriCherry has beaten them to it. There is a mole inside the agency, and only Nero Wolfe can ferret him out. Although he is as round as a cherry, Wolfe has no taste for soft drinks. But the question of industrial espionage is too sweet for him to resist, and so with assistant Archie Goodwin at his side, he sets out to end this vicious corporate feud. Only when the first adman dies, however, does he realize that a marketing war can be just as dangerous as the real thing.
"Rex Stout was a genius"
Staten Island would be forgettable were it not for the gleaming Tabernacle of the Silver Spire, where thousands of congregants come every Sunday to hear the sermons of Barnabas Bay. Millions more tune in on television, giving the good Reverend international fame, and a chance to spread the gospel from New York City’s harbor all the way to South Korea. But threatening notes have been appearing in the collection bag, suggesting that one of the faithful has decided it’s time this good shepherd get the hook.
Archie Goodwin is chipper as he strolls home from his weekly poker game, money in his pocket and a smile on his lips. He has just reached Nero Wolfe's stately brownstone on West 35th Street when a sedan whips around the corner and two gunshots ring out, nearly hitting Goodwin. It is a warning, and the message is clear: The next bullet will not miss.
To save his favorite newspaper, Wolfe steps into the crossfire of a tabloid war. Scottish newspaper magnate Ian MacLaren plans to gut the paper and turn it into a sex-filled conservative rag. Standing in his way is the company’s chief shareholder, Gazette heir Harriet Haverhill. But when the aged Ms. Haverhill dies in an apparent suicide, no one remains to resist the Scot’s advances except Wolfe. MacLaren may be fierce, but when the cause is just, Nero Wolfe knows how to play dirty, too.
"Superb job! Nero and Archie are back!"
A conservative academic, so far to the right that he thought Ronald Reagan was a pinko, Hale Markham rules Prescott University like an intellectual tyrant - right up until the morning he is found dead at the bottom of one of Prescott’s famously beautiful ravines. Every liberal on campus hated the crotchety old crank, but which one is responsible for giving Markham his final push to the right?
"Not Rex Stout but Not Bad"
It wasn’t Nero Wolfe’s idea for Orrie Cather to kill himself, but the great detective gave his blessing to his longtime associate’s plan. Cather had killed three people, and it was only fair to pay the price. Though Wolfe reacted to Cather’s death with his characteristic calmness, prize assistant Archie Goodwin could see the rotund genius of West 35th Street was shaken to his well-fed core. Wolfe decided his sleuthing days were finished. The detective’s retirement lasts until the day Maria Radovich walks through his door.
"OK, but nothing special"
Archie Goodwin and Saul Panzer have ventured into the wilds of Northern Manhattan to watch the Giants take on the Dodgers at the Polo Grounds. The national anthem is just winding down when Panzer spies a notable in the box seats: state senator Orson Milbank, a silver-haired scoundrel with enemies in every corner of upstate New York. In the fourth inning, a monstrous line drive brings every fan in the grandstand to his feet - every fan save for one silver-haired senator, who has been shot dead by a sniper in the upper deck.
"Not true to Rex Stout"
When Lily Rowan doesn’t laugh at his jokes, Archie Goodwin knows something is wrong. Her niece Noreen has been running around with Sparky Linville, a club-hopping bad boy who is the terror of Manhattan nightlife. And the last time she went out with him, Noreen wasn’t herself when she came home. All she would tell her aunt was that she had been assaulted. Springing into action, Goodwin waits for Linville outside of Morgana’s, a chrome-and-glass palace that sits like a wart on Second Avenue. They nearly come to blows, but Linville’s bodyguard intervenes, and Goodwin retreats to plan his next move. In the morning Linville is dead, and Goodwin is the chief suspect.