Under the Andes is an intriguing precursor to Rex Stout’s scores of marvelous Nero Wolfe mysteries.
Desiree Le Mire ran into the cave, anxious to explore, tempted by the legends of Inca gold. Harry Lamar and his brother Paul had no choice but to follow. After all, they could not let the beautiful dancer enter the black depths alone.
Others lived there, however, protecting the gold of their ancestors, others now misshapen after generations of living underground. That was why no one who entered the cave ever emerged into daylight. But no one who had entered was as beautiful as Desiree - or as determined as the Lamars.
If you're eyeing this novel you're likely a fan of either Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe novels or of old adventure novels in general. As someone who's a fan of both types of novels, I can tell you that this particular tale offers little to fans of either. At the time of writing this novel, Stout had not yet honed his deft skills at characterization and deft plotting that would be the hallmarks of his most famous works. And, unfortunately, _Under the Andes_ holds up poorly against even its contemporary adventures novels (like Buchan's _The Thirty-Nine Steps_ or Burroughs's _At The Earth's Core_) in terms of plot and character. There's not much humor to be had, our main character has a scientific fact for every situation encountered, and coincidence drives almost all of the action.
The novel also has an extremely strange epilogue that, depending on how one reads it, either leaves the reader fairly cheated or presents one of the characters to be far more of a scoundrel than previous actions had proven. Given how poorly realized the characters were, I could go either way.
The one thing that this edition has going for it is a forward that details some of the circumstances surrounding the initial publication and of the efforts to get it reprinted in the 1970s. These details are kind of fascinating.
Recommended for Stout completists only. Unless you're someone who simply has to read everything the man wrote (hey, I'm one of you), you're likely to be disappointed here.
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