by Rex Stout
It is always a treat to read a Nero Wolfe mystery. The man has entered our folklore”.–The New York Times Book Review. Incomparable sleuth Nero Wolfe and his perennially hardy sidekick, Archie Goodwin, find themselves trying to weed out a garden-variety killer at the annual flower show.
This is my FAVORITE Nero Wolfe story! I am sitting here grinning from ear to ear because I am so excited to share it with you! I would be dancing but I’m waiting until I finally get home to do so.
Nero Wolfe is an amateur horticulturist who strictly specializes in orchids. The entire top floor of his brownstone has been converted to a green house and he spends precisely four hours a day attending to his plants. The Black Orchids starts with Archie stuck at a Flower Show examining the main exhibit, three rare black orchids, for his boss. Wolfe eventually ventures out of the brownstone to see the blooms for himself; on the same afternoon a young gardener is found dead in a display. Wolfe eagerly takes on the case in hopes of adding some new orchids to his ever growing collection.
I love The Black Orchids because it perfectly showcases the dynamic between Wolfe and Archie. Readers experience Archie’s snarky attitude and his joy at badgering his boss through his narration. Wolfe’s quirks, including his brash selfishness, are spread out in detail for the readers. But one of the best parts is getting to experience one of Wolfe’s theatrical who-dunnit’ reveals.
Rex Stout is just gifted. His prose pulls you through the narrative making you eagerly await the answers. He delves in to the personalities of most of his characters and I enjoy what he shares of Inspector Cramer and Lewis Hewett. But be warned; the female characters can read flat. Wolfe resists interacting with women on the off chance they get hysterical and Archie is more focused on the physical attributes. But don’t worry; they are not sexist pigs. Both men enjoy conversing with highly intelligent and independent women so they show up on a regular basis through the series. Wolfe even verbally spars with two female witnesses in The Black Orchids.
Read it! I always recommend Rex Stout for those interested in crime noir. The Nero Wolfe books are not as gritty as most hardboiled crime pieces but I personally enjoy the humorous aspects. Have you read any Rex Stout? Which story is your favorite?