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Fer-de-Lance by Rex Stout

Fer-de-Lance (original 1934; edition 1992)

by Rex Stout

Series: Nero Wolfe (1)

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1,499538,370 (3.79)269
A case of multiple murder sends super sleuth Nero Wolfe and his quick-witted legman Archie Goodwin on a desperate hunt for clues, but they soon discover that they may be getting too close to a killer when someone sends them a fer-de-lance, one of the world's most poisonous snakes, as a deadly "gift."… (more)
Authors:Rex Stout
Info:New York : Bantam, 1992.
Collections:Fiction & Literature

Work details

Fer-de-Lance by Rex Stout (1934)

Recently added byEumenides, hradour, Deborama, wearyhobo, private library, astahura, TomDonaghey, jmnlman, tealadytoo
Legacy LibrariesCarl Sandburg
  1. 00
    Seeker by Jack McDevitt (LamontCranston)
    LamontCranston: Alex Benedict stays at home handling sales and research while Chase Kolpath is the leg (wo)man in the field

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» See also 269 mentions

English (50)  Finnish (1)  Italian (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (53)
Showing 1-5 of 50 (next | show all)
Fer-De-Lance (1934) (Nero Wolfe #1) by Rex Stout. When her brother goes missing, a young woman who is a friend of one of Wolfe’s regular hirelings, manages to convince Wolfe and Archie to look for him. Through a source they learn that the young man in question had been interested in a news story about the apparent death by stroke of a local college president. Then the young man is found dead.
This being the first of the Nero Wolfe stories, Mr. Stout has introduced his cast of characters to a good degree. But it would seen that he also then listened to his family, friends, editors and critics as to the characters themselves. In subsequent novels each of the players have been altered into the people we have come to know. Archie for one has become more of the smooth fixer in later books rather than the… well I suppose goon strikes me as an apt description. Most of the others have been refined into more or less agreeable characters which make the ensuing novels so much more fun to read than this one. Not to say it isn’t a good book, but the troupe of actors upon the page are more likable in later stories, letting the reader to be more capable of enjoying the mystery to a fuller degree.
Back to the story. Wolfe comes up with the idea that a rigged driver must have been used to kill the man as he was teeing off during a golf game. The bag he used, and the clubs, have gone missing. Archie starts to look into the dead man’s family and the people he had been golfing with. But when Archie and Wolfe get too close to the guilty party, the killer retaliates with a deadly surprise that is planted within Wolfe’s Brownstone.
The case is resolved with a fiery conclusion.
This is a great introduction to the methods, habits and style that will carry through the vast majority of the Wolfe books. This was a very enjoyable read. And who knew that Nero Wolfe would be such a trend setter. Self quarantining might not have been created by Stout’s characters, but he certainly set a fine example on how to do it. And pocket a hefty fee at the same time. ( )
  TomDonaghey | Jun 7, 2020 |
Wolfe, the detective who doesn't leave home, is almost murdered himself by a snake in his desk ( )
  LindaLeeJacobs | Feb 15, 2020 |
Hmm... hard to know where to place this between Hammett and Chandler. It's unashamedly quirky and mannered. It's also a little long which feels like an unusual criticism of early noir. Archie Goodwin is good value, but I imagine the repeated interviews in Nero Wolfe's office must get old. Not sure when I'll pick up another. ( )
  asxz | Mar 13, 2019 |
Such was procedural; we had moved into a new house. I was introduced to Archie Goodwin alongside to supervising one's own property. One needs time for one's orchids. These remain the staples. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
This book is Exhibit A in the argument for not always starting to read a series with the first book. And yes, I usually do start with the first book when I can, and sometimes it's absolutely essential in order to fully appreciate how the characters evolve. But Stout's Nero Wolfe series of mysteries, which were written over a span of time between 1938 and 1975, are most certainly the exception that proves the rule.

That's due in large part to the way Stout structures the books. While the setting of each book reflects the time period in which it was written, the characters themselves — enormously sedentary detecting genius Nero Wolfe; his handsome, wisecracking, athletic assistant Archie Goodwin (swoon); live-in gourmet French chef Fritz; police nemeses Inspector Cramer and Sergeant Stebbins; newspaperman Lon Cohen — never change. They remain the same ages and personalities from the first book to the last, with only minor exceptions. Wolfe is forever in his mid 50s, Archie is forever 32-ish, and so on.

It might sound odd to think of characters never aging even as they operate in a New York City and an American culture that changes drastically, but somehow Stout makes it work. And it has the advantage of avoiding the absurdity of Robert B. Parker's detective Spenser, who in the early 1970s is a Korean War vet and ages at a normal pace through the series, yet is still somehow kicking ass and taking names in the 21st century, well past the age he should be worrying bout breaking a hip during one of his inevitable fisticuffs.

While it's true that Stout's characters remain the same age, that's not to say that they sprang fully formed from the beginning, and that brings us around to why you shouldn't start this series with this book, the first. It took maybe 3 or 4 full-length novels before Stout had fully found Archie's and Nero's voices. Having read the later masterpieces like If Death Ever Slept, a discerning reader will find the dialogue a bit stilted in this maiden effort without the characteristic sparkle and sass that would develop in Archie's first-person narration once Stout hit his stride.

The mystery, though, is still first-rate, involving a snake, a golf club, and an airplane — to say more would be to say too much. Just do me and yourself a favor and don't read it until you've already fallen in love with Wolfe's World. Hands off Archie, though; I saw him first. ( )
1 vote rosalita | Jun 15, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 50 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Stout, Rexprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Estleman, Loren D.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Golinelli, AlessandroTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kalvas, ReijoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Krieger, Ellen E.Forewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McAleer, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prichard, MichaelNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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There was no reason why I couldn't have been sent for the beer that day, for the last ends of the Fairmont National Bank case had been gathered in the week before and there was nothing for me to do but errands, and Wolfe never hesitated about running me down to Murray Street for a can of shoe-polish if he happened to need one.
Wolfe speaking to the golf club salesman with delusions of superiority......

You know, Mr. Townsend, it is our good fortune that the exigencies of birth and training furnish all of us with opportunities for snobbery. My ignorance of this special nomenclature provided yours; your innocence of the elementary mental processes provides mine.
Archie..............I hated to hear him (Wolfe) curse. It got on my nerves. The reason for that, he told me once, was that whereas in most cases cursing was merely a verbal explosion, with him it was a considered expression of a profound desire.
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