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Publisher's Summary

There's no one or no thing the great detective Nero Wolfe won't take on if the price is right. That's something wealthy society widow Rachel Bruner is counting on when she writes him a check for a whopping one hundred grand. The oversize genius and his able assistant, Archie Goodwin, soon find out why the prize is so generous as they lock horns with the FBI. The highly trained G-men have a way with threats, tails, and bugs that could give even sedentary sleuth Nero Wolfe a run for his money.
Stout fellow: listen to all of our Nero Wolfe mysteries, including classic radio programs!
©1993 Rex Stout; (P)1999 Books on Tape Inc.

Critic Reviews

"It's always a treat to read a Nero Wolfe mystery. The man has entered our folklore." (The New York Times)
"What's not to like about a Nero Wolfe mystery? The mysteries are short, cleverly plotted, well paced, and, if you're an audiobook listener, wonderfully read by Michael Prichard....Prichard has read nearly 20 books in Stout's series and has mastered Wolfe's deep, meditative voice and Archie's spry, chipper voice, as well as those of a host of other characters we recognize from one recording to the next." (AudioFile)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Defend a widow, outfox the FBI, and make $100,000

Nero Wolfe's interest is raised when a wealthy woman offers him a huge check if he can get the FBI to stop harassing her. Only a man as arrogant as Nero Wolfe would even dream of attempting this act of professional suicide. But Nero Wolfe loves a challenge, so he takes the case. Although the plots of the books are always clever and engaging, the irresistible appeal of the Nero Wolfe books is the interplay between the principal characters. This is witty banter at its absolute best. Rarely will you hear goads and observations delivered with such acerbic humor or with such rich vocabulary. Stout could have educated Shakespeare in the art of satiric dialog. In particular, this book is my favorite because Mr. Wolfe's real desire to strike a blow for civil liberties and his evident enjoyment of the challenge enriches the story.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Michael
  • Walnut Creek, CA, United States
  • 09-18-13

The best of the Nero Wolfe series? Perhaps.

If not the absolute best, this is one of the very best of the Nero Wolfe series. It has some of the best characterization and relationship development in the series along with some of the best imagery and cleverness plus it was a brave exposure of the abuses by the FBI of the time, earning Stout a thick FBI file. Although I enjoyed the TV version of this for the premier of the A&E series, the book was much, much better. Although this is a great book, I don’t think it should be one of the first read as it depends more than most on the history between characters.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Annoyed by the FBI?

I started reading Rex Stout -- specifically Nero Wolfe in the sixties. Because of the timing, I collected and read the paperbacks in order, starting with 1934 Fer-de-Lance. This shorter novel had me laughing out loud because it tickled my fancy, propped up my prejudices (about the FBI) and is Archie and Nero in full alter ego stride, albeit closing in (1965) on the end of a long series of well written, entertaining detective novels. Extensive vocabulary and proper grammar aside, Rex Stout is an engrossing story teller and Michael Prichard does both characters justice as he narrates the tale.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Favorite Nero Wolf

Rex stout was a genius who wrote each of his books and short stories in one sitting with no editing. He wrote one a year and everything in the story in terms of color is authentic whether it be the score of a Yankee game or a presidential election.

The stories make you smile as old characters appear. If you've never read the earlier ones, Rex still paints each character with a fine brush.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Wolfe & Archie face an impossible challenge

Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin are hired to go up against the unlawful practices during the time of Hoover ' s oppressive FBI. An extremely "satisfactory" story unfolds. You'll love it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Favorite Nero Wolfe book

This is one of the funniest, cleverest Nero Wolfe book Stout ever wrote. The plot and reason why Stout wrote this book are just great.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Classic Detective Story

I have read more than 30 Nero Wolfe detective stories and have enjoyed them all. This was the first one that I have listened to. The narrator will keep me from downloading any more. His voice and flat monotone delivery would be fine for Nero Wolfe but the stories are told from Archie Goodwin's view and this is not the energetic, cheeky voice of Archie Goodwin. So sad...

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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One of Nero Wolfe's Best

Would you listen to The Doorbell Rang again? Why?

Yes. Like most Nero Wolfe stories, you can listen to them over and over again and pick up new details. I typically listen to them all over a two year period and then repeat. It's too bad Audible doesn't have all of them, especially the short story collections that were never made available on CD.

Did the plot keep you on the edge of your seat? How?

It's more like keeping your mind trying to outwit Wolfe (which you seldom do unless you've heard the story before). In this case he outwits the FBI, which seems like an impossible task until two agents make a mistake and Wolfe uses it to corner them. But even so, the way he does it makes you glad he's on our side!

What does Michael Prichard bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Michael is perfect for representing the voices of Wolfe, Archie and all the other characters. Not just the right sound, but the right inflection.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No. What's great about Wolfe books is that you can read on any schedule you would like. No gratuitous sex or violence, just a solid, intellectually challenging mystery.

Any additional comments?

Please, Audible, please make available the remaining Wolfe books! Most of those you don't currently have are no longer available in audio format except for cassettes priced at $50 or more.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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I enjoy Rex Stouts Nero Wolf books.

Where does The Doorbell Rang rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

The way the Plot unfolds it makes you think that the little guy can win.

What about Michael Prichard’s performance did you like?

Mr. Prichard makes the book feel honest and true. He has the right voice for this time period I think.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Wolfe tangles with the FBI

Nero Wolfe tangles with the FBI in 1965's <strong>The Doorbell Rang</strong> by Rex Stout. Mrs. Rachel Bruner, a wealthy socialite widow, comes to Wolfe to hire him because she is being harassed by the FBI. She read the book <em>The FBI Nobody Knows</em>, about the abuses of J. Edgsr Hoover, and being scandalized, she decided to spread the word about the problem by purchasing 10,000 copies of the book to send to all the important and influential people she could think of. Now she is being harassed, with people tailing her, her family, and anyone connected with her, such as her secretary. She offers Wolfe a $50,000 retainer to stop them, but he turns her down because what she is asking is an impossible task. But Wolfe's greed wins out when she changes the check to $100,000, leaving Wolfe and Archie under seige.

For the next couple weeks, Wolfe and Archie live in hiding in their own home. Afraid that the FBI might have bugging equipment to overhear their conversations without getting into the house, they carry on their business from the basement, with the radio or television on loudly in order to cover up their voices. They try to find dirt on the FBI and Hoover in order to force the federal agency to drop its surveillance of Mrs. Bruner. They ultimately hatch a wild scheme that leads to their earning the fee.

<strong>The Doorbell Rang</strong> is one of my favorite Nero Wolfe books and a popular one among members of the Wolfe Pack, the official Nero Wolfe society, of which I am a member. I love the angle of Wolfe's taking on the FBI and the creative angles of how he does that. The book that sparked the case, The FBI Nobody Knows, is a real book, comprised of a series of investigative news articles by Fred J. Cook that had previously appeared in <em>The Nation</em>. Stout, a politically active Democrat, used the book to air some of his opinions. This landed him on the FBI's "not to contact" list of people considered enemies of the government, in this case meaning enemies of Hoover.

In 1988, Herbert Mitgang wrote a book looking into FBI abuses against authors called Dangerous Dossiers: Exposing the Secret War Against America's Greatest Authors. Mitgang had the following to say about the FBI dossier on Stout, which goes back to Stout's earliest days as a writer:

About one hundred pages in Stout's file are devoted to the novel, the FBI's panicky response to it and the attempt to retaliate against the author for writing it. The FBI's internal memorandum for its special agents told them that "the bureau desires to contribute in no manner to the sales of this book by helping to make it the topic of publicity." Orders came from headquarters in Washington that any questions concerning the book should be forwarded to the Crime Records Division, thereby putting book and author in a criminal category. An internal memorandum by Special Agent M.A. Jones (name surprisingly not censored) summarized the novel and went on to write a critique for the FBI's top command — a rare "literary" honor accorded to few books in its files . . . . Following the review came a series of recommendations — first, Stout was designated as a person "not to be contacted" without prior approval by FBI headquarters in Washington. (227-228)

Besides the political element of the plot, <strong>The Doorbell Rang</strong> is very creative in its dealing with a group that serves as a bullying force against many. The method by which Wolfe manipulates the situation to earn his fee is highly creative and fun. I won't go into further details because that would give away surprises from the book. But this is one of Stout's more creative plots.

I also enjoyed the characters as in all Nero Wolfe books. Archie proves to be his dapper, wise-cracking self, while Wolfe shows his usual wit in solving the case that his greed and laziness have inspired him to accept. His laziness leads him to take the case because he realizes that if he earns this giant fee, he won't have to work for many months. We also get the fun of seeing Lily Rowan, even if only for a short time. She is one of the most delightful characters in all of the Nero Wolfe books. In addition, Saul, Fred, and Orrie help with the denouement, along with two highly creative actors.

Michael Pritchard performs the audiobook of <strong>The Doorbell Rang</strong> and does as fantastic a job as always. I will always have a special place in my heart for Pritchard because it was the Nero Wolfe books that first got me properly hooked on audiobooks and mysteries in particular. Pritchard made audiobooks accessible to me after I had muddled through more literary books. I have often read people's comments about Pritchard that he is so expressive that he could make the phone book interesting I he were to read thst. Hence, I consider Pritchard to be my favorite narrator of all time.

I highly recommend <strong>The Doorbell Rang</strong> to any, even if you have never read any other Nero Wolfe books. You will probably appreciate the book a little further if you are more acquainted with Wolfe, but anyone can still enjoy this clever book with no previous exposure to the great detective. This book contains plenty of humor in it and a clever plot and characters. It is one of my favorite books in one of my favorite series. I give the book five stars.