Generally I am always entertained by Rex Stout's stories. However, while the challenge was to stay attentive to various clues, there were too many distractions for me in this read. It didn't help that there was hardly a likeable character in the cast--except for Archie Goodwin and Fritz, of course. But, the construct of Wolfe's commission seemed an implausible scenario for him to agree to, and so made the entire story difficult to attach to, or enjoy. I have read many of Nero Wolfe mysteries, and they are enjoyable excursions. I have given this 4 stars since even this story holds interest and a different perspective on what drives people to crime.
Wolfe is hired by an advertising agency to save a contest that has been threatened by the murder of the man who devised the contest. The first prize was to be five hundred thousand dollars with the top five equally impressive. His job was never to expose the murderer, but he was still caught up in the investigation. When the contestants receive answers to the final questions in the contest Wolfe feels he has an advantage to fulfil the job he was hired for, but another murder occurs. Wolfe feels humiliated by that murder in his own house and is therefore compelled to solve that one. Of course he accomplished both jobs. I enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.
I am a Nero Wolfe/Rex Stout fan and have decided to read all of the books in order, even though I have read most of them before. This means that I am on a second reading of a good many of them -- or maybe even a third! I never tire of these mysteries and have enjoyed all but two (they happened to include an unusual amount of violence). I enjoy working out the mysteries as best I can but I have to admit Nero Wolfe outsmarts me more often than not. I have come to know all the regular characters who inhabit Nero Wolfe's world and I have made them part of mine. I will continue to do so.
Clever. Comical. Crisp. Here is Archie on Saul Panzer, “Saul is not a natural for Mr. America. His nose is twice as big as he needs, he never looks as if he had just shaved, one shoulder is half an inch higher than the other and they both slope, and his coat sleeves are too short. But if and when I find myself up a tree with a circle of man-eating tigers crouching on the ground below, and a squad of beavers starting to gnaw at the trunk of the tree, the sight of Saul approaching would be absolutely beautiful. I have never seen him fazed.” I agree with Robert Crais’ assessment of the Nero Wolfe series, “They are…rollicking good yarns.”
As usual, I can always depend on his books, novels mysteries, detective or what have ever you, to be just perfect. I'll read until I either go to sleep, or have something(s) to do. I may return, and definitely will, to find them just as fresh, the details still easily recalled, I can easily slip back into his story. So far, I have only read about seven, I don't find any repeats of plots, just the same esteemable characters. He has about a hundred of these Nero Wolfe books! Will I get tired of them? No. By the time if ever I do get to as many as I can afford, they may run as high as fifty-bucks an e-book!
I'm a little out of step with the other reviewers in that I don't think this is one of Stout's better Nero Wolfe mysteries. It was written in 1955, well after his prime period. For me, Wolfe belongs in the New York of the 1930s and 1940s. There are some good points: Archie Goodwin's narration is well done and he gets off enough good lines that you will have a few chuckles. My main problem is that the mystery and the characters just aren't very interesting. There are nine suspects, most of whom are rather bland. Because there are so many of them, there isn't space for any of them to appear for more than a brief period. Although one of the women suspects is described as being attractive, Stout passes on his frequent gambit of having Archie take a romantic interest in her. The resolution of the mystery is also unsatisfying as it turns out that X had a grudge against Y that would have been difficult for the reader to figure out. In other words, I don't think Stout really plays fair with the reader on this one.
This edition contains a brief introduction by Robert Crais that spells out nicely what I guess we all knew: Archie, not Wolfe, is the key to the success of these books. So, if you are Wolfe fan and haven't yet read this one, it's worth picking up. If you are new to Wolfe, go back and get one of the earlier books from the 1930s or 1940s. Bantam has recently begun to reissue those in a new format that combines two books in one volume. They are definitely more of a bargain than these somewhat pricey "Rex Stout Library" editions.