Book: Trio for Blunt Instruments by Rex Stout

Three very good private-eye novellas

Rex Stout
Trio for Blunt Instruments
Bantam, 2002 (originally published in 1961)
ISBN: 0-553-24191-5
200 pages

I'm probably the only fan of mystery novels who hasn't known for a long time about Rex Stout and his fictional detective Nero Wolfe. But in case there's another, Nero Wolfe is a famously brilliant, fat, and eccentric private detective who lives in New York. He almost never leaves his house and keeps to a strict schedule that leaves him plenty of time for tending his orchids. He does all his detecting by having people come to him and listening to what they have to say. His assistant, Archie Goodwin, takes care of most practical matters for him. Archie is also the narrator.

Of course, having most everything described to the detective puts the reader on a par with him as far as the information available. We've heard just as well as Nero Wolf has the details that will lead him to his conclusion. If you like to treat whodunits as puzzles, these are pretty fair puzzles.

Trio for Blunt Instruments consists of three longish stories or perhaps novellas: "Kill Now -- Pay Later", "Murder is Corny", and "Blood Will Tell". The first involves an bootblack unjustly accused. In the second there's a circumstantial case that looks pretty bad for Archie Goodwin. And in the third there's the murder of a woman whose husband had reason to be jealous but who Wolfe thinks is innocent.

The stories are entertaining and, though I didn't read them as puzzles, the puzzles seem pretty good. The dialog is appropriately hard-boiled and what we see of the New York of the early 1960s is good fun. Apart from Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe, few of the characters have much personality, but those two are very memorable. and so are many of the stores' scenes. There's a reason that Nero Wolfe mysteries are classics and this one doesn't disappoint.

This edition is needlessly fatiguing to read because the lines of type have been set too close together. The extra pages that another point of leading would have required would hardly have made the book expensive.

Posted: Thu - March 24, 2005 at 08:04   Main   Category: