Too Many Cooks

Too Many Cooks

by Rex Stout


The guest at a gathering of the greatest chefs in the world, Nero Wolfe must practice his own trade–sleuthing–when he discovers that a murderer is in their midst.

Nero Wolfe must travel to South Carolina to provide the keynote speech at a gathering of the world’s greatest cooks. Nero Wolfe leaves the brownstone….he takes a TRAIN…and then of course has to solve a murder far from home.

The best part of every Nero Wolfe story is the relationship between the eccentric detective and his mouthy right-hand-man, Archie Goodman. Too Many Cooks is no exception, as Wolfe is struggling with the uncomfortable aspect of being outside his home while Archie is doing his best to accommodate Wolfe’s demands. Comedic banter fills the pages as Wolfe stoically deals with the irritations surrounding him. These two characters keep me coming back time after time.

I will say that Too Many Cooks offered a unique murder but one I found less than interesting thanks to the irritating cast of supporting characters. Many pages were dedicated to extensive descriptions of grand meals (which was cool) and listening to the self important ramblings of the cooks (boring…). I have to add that a surprising number of background characters were less developed than usual. There were a number of cooks and spouses (spouse of cook was pretty much their claim to fame) that I couldn’t describe if my life depended on it. They were just there, which isn’t normal for a Rex Stout story.

I must also warn people the book was written in the 1960s and is set in South Carolina, so of course there are conversations concerning racial tensions. I felt Stout handled it well, highlighting the negative actions of both races while utilizing Wolfe to present options of equality to the readers. Too Many Cooks presented an objective conversation that focused on perspective and social growth; but, the story still contains period racial slurs. I just want readers to be aware of this before picking up the book. I will say the scene where Wolfe interrogates the kitchen scene is my favorite!

Too Many Cooks was good but it definitely isn’t my favorite Nero Wolfe story. The Black Orchids still holds that title and the book I recommend to anyone interested in the series. Too Many Cooks still was the perfect read to pull me out of a month long reading slump; a solid Nero Wolfe/Archie Goodwin story never fails to make me smile.

Let me know which Nero Wolfe story is your favorite. What series do you turn to when you’re struggling with a reading slump? Let me know and happy reading!


Archie Meets Nero Wolfe

Archie Meets Nero Wolfe

by Robert Goldsborough


To become part of the Nero Wolfe legend, Archie Goodwin must prove his worth

Archie Goodwin comes to New York City hoping for a bit of excitement. In his third week working as a night watchman, he stops two burglars in their tracks—with a pair of hot lead slugs. Dismissed from his job for being “trigger-happy,” he parlays his newfound notoriety into a job as a detective’s assistant, helping honest sleuth Del Bascom solve cases like the Morningside Piano Heist, the Rive Gauche Art Gallery Swindle, and the Sumner-Hayes Burglary. But it’s the kidnapping of Tommie Williamson, the son of a New York hotel magnate, that introduces Goodwin to the man who will change his life. Young Tommie has gone missing, and only one detective is built for the job: Nero Wolfe, the heavyset genius of West Thirty-Fifth Street. Together they will form one of the most unlikely crime fighting duos in history—but first Goodwin must find Tommie Williamson, and prove to Wolfe that he deserves a place by his side.

So, if you’ve read my blog in the past, you will know that I absolutely adore the Nero Wolfe mysteries by Rex Stout. I was first introduced to the characters through the A&E TV series, A Nero Wolfe Mystery, starring Maury Chaykin as Nero Wolfe and Timothy Hutton as Archie Goodwin. The series was unique in that the same ensemble of guest actors were utilized to play characters in each episode, in a similar style to the traditional theatre troupe. This tv series led to me picking up the novels, and I have shared reviews for both The Black Orchids and Cordially Invited to Meet Death. It is safe to say that I am a Nero Wolfe fan! So, I didn’t hesitate to pick up Archie Meets Nero Wolfe: A Prequel to Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe Mysteries. I have read this novel a number of times, and as I consider it one of my favorites, I decided it was in desperate need of a reread. I still enjoy the story, but sadly I no longer consider it one of my favorites. So let’s get in to the review.

The story is about how Archie Goodwin meets Nero Wolfe, and his journey to becoming the famous detective’s right hand man. Archie has just moved to New York City, and doesn’t last a month at his first job because he’s too deadly with a gun. He takes up as an assistant for gum-shoe, Del Bascom, and discovers there is more to being a detective than what he reads in his favorite dime novels. But not surprisingly, Archie is a natural, and his success on small cases lands him on a crew of detectives working for Nero Wolfe and investigating the kidnapping of young Tommie Williamson.

Archie Meets Nero Wolfe is longer than the short novel style of the original Rex Stout stories, but stays true to the form in that it is told from Archie’s point of view. This style of narrative pulls the reader into the story and gives you an intimate understanding of both Archie and the investigation. The mystery is unique enough to keep the reader involved, with a good steady pacing that pulls you along as the clues unfold. Goldsborough does an excellent job capturing Archie’s charismatic yet headstrong personality, and he accurately presents favorite staple characters, such as Inspector Cramer, Fred Durkin, and Saul Panzer. I had no problem picturing each of them as they stalk through New York City on the trail of the kidnappers. It is a great mystery with a nice crew of quirky characters.

But, there are a couple of things that made me take Archie Meets Nero Wolfe off my ‘favorite books’ list. The first is the story is good if you are already a fan of the original series. Though I felt Goldsborough captured the essence of most of the characters, I would have been a little disappointed in the character development if I didn’t already know who these men were. The mystery is great, but the character development requires previous knowledge of the players. The second is I was disappointed in was the lack of banter between Archie and Wolfe. Sure, I understand that this is just the beginning of their association and the two haven’t had a chance to establish their snarky relationship, but it left Nero Wolfe feeling flat. We don’t see him get flustered. We don’t hear the snark behind his comments. We don’t get to hear one single ‘Phooey!’ Those are things that endear readers to Nero Wolfe, and I definitely noticed that something was missing.

I wouldn’t recommend Archie Meets Nero Wolfe as an intro to the eccentric detective. Read The Black Orchids, watch the tv show, and then come back to this story because you can appreciate it once you actually know the characters.

So, is anyone else a Nero Wolfe fan? Let me know which mystery is your favorite!


The Black Orchids

The Black Orchids

by Rex Stout

Black Orchids (Nero Wolfe, #9)

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?


Holiday Loves and Quirks – Nero Wolfe

Holiday Loves and Quirks is my mini-blog series for December.  Posts documenting my unique take on Christmas will show up on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  This is a way for me to share the spirit of the holiday with all of you!  And don’t worry; I am in full marathon reading mode so you will still have plenty of book reviews to peruse!

Nero Wolfe

Nero Wolfe is a fictional private investigator created by Rex Stout in 1934.  Stout produced, during forty-one years, 33 novels and 39 short stories about the eccentric armchair detective and many other writers have continued the series since 1975.  The stories usually take place in New York City, and document Wolfe’s investigations.  Wolfe is a large man who delights in gourmet meals, never leaves his house on business, loves the color yellow, and grows ornate and expensive orchids as a hobby.  The narrator of the stories is Wolfe’s right-hand man, the cheeky gumshoe Archie Goodwin.  Archie is always there to run errands for Wolfe, and keeps the eccentric genius grounded with his sarcastic humor.  Expect to see Nero Wolfe book reviews over the next few weeks!

Carl Mueller Illustrated Rex Stout's fir Nero Wolfe Novella, "Bitter End," for The American Magazine

Carl Mueller Illustrated Rex Stout’s fir Nero Wolfe Novella, “Bitter End,” for The American Magazine

I love the books, but I was first introduced to the character via the TV show.  A Nero Wolfe Mystery aired on A&E in 2000 and only ran for two seasons.  It was different in that it contained a repertory cast.  The same actors played the central characters, Maury Chaykin as Nero Wolfe and Timothy Hutton as Archie Goodwin.  Regular actors also portrayed the essential supporting characters: Inspector Cramer, Fritz Brenner, Saul Panzer, and Sergeant Purley Stebbins.  The rest of the roles were filled by the repertory cast each week and the diverse acting skills is just impressive.  Plus, the settings are just beautiful!  I definitely recommend that you watch the series; my favorite episode is “Door to Death.”

Timothy Hutton as Archie Goodwin

Timothy Hutton as Archie Goodwin

Maury Chaykin as Nero Wolfe

Maury Chaykin as Nero Wolfe

My mom is the reason we watch this series over and over again at Christmas.  She received the box set as a gift one year and we watched the entire thing in four days!  We both ‘nerd out’ when it comes to Christmas Nero Wolfe marathons 😀  Do you have any odd Christmas traditions?