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Fer-de-Lance by Rex Stout
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Fer-de-Lance (original 1934; edition 1992)

by Rex Stout

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1,366478,110 (3.81)241
Member:joeeasterly
Title:Fer-de-Lance
Authors:Rex Stout
Info:New York : Bantam, 1992.
Collections:Fiction & Literature
Rating:****
Tags:None

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Fer-de-Lance by Rex Stout (1934)

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English (46)  Finnish (1)  All languages (47)
Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
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 |
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 | Apr 2, 2018 |
Holds up reasonably well, given that this is the third or fourth time I've listened to it.

Amazing how many of the elements of the series are already in place. ( )
  dmmjlllt | Aug 13, 2017 |
My first book by Rex Stout. I liked the story, specially the main characters (Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin). The irony and wisdom of Nero Wolfe combines with the promptness and intelligence of Goodwin. The art of solving a crime puzzle was performed. ( )
  MarcusBastos | Jan 6, 2017 |
I listened to this. This is the first Nero Wolfe book by Rex Stout. Nero Wolfe is an orchid growing, gourmandizing, eccentric genius who solves this mystery with the help of Archie Goodwin. I recently re-watched the tv series with Timothy Hutton as Archie. I really liked that show. In this first book, Archie has been with Wolfe for about 7 years. A friend of the wife one of the detectives (Fred) who helps Wolfe out from time to time consults Wolfe because her brother is missing. Then a well liked man, Peter Barstow, dies of what looks like a heart attack. Wolfe finds the connection but has trouble finding the guilty party since no one wanted Barstow dead. Barstow died on the first tee of the golf course. Wolfe finds that someone cleverly fitted a poisoned needle to discharge from the handle of the driver when it was used. Barstow died quickly. Finally the evidence reveals that Barstow died accidentally as he wasn't the intended victim. He now knows that son of one of the others in the gold foursome was trying to kill his father, E.D. Kimble. This man Kimble lived in Argentina and killed his wife who he found sleeping with a friend. He walked away from his infant son claiming the boy probably wasn't his anyway. Several years later, Kimble went back and connected with his son and brought him to America to work with him in his business. The son, Manual, is cool calm and collected and Wolfe must find a way to get the evidence without anyone else dying.
  taurus27 | Oct 25, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Stout, Rexprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Estleman, Loren D.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kalvas, ReijoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Krieger, Ellen E.Forewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McAleer, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prichard, MichaelNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedication
First words
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.
Quotations
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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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0553278193, Mass Market Paperback)

I've promised myself for the past decade that, when I finally retire, my first major project will be to reread the entire Nero Wolfe canon in chronological order, a worthwhile occupation if ever there was one.

Although entirely different and not nearly as literary as Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer series or the Philip Marlowe novels of Raymond Chandler, the Wolfe saga deserves to be ranked with them as among the finest series of detective stories ever written by an American. Fer-de-lance introduces the brilliant, idiosyncratic, and obese armchair detective to the world and, while it may not be the best book of the series, it provides a wonderful murder set on a golf course and a cast of characters and laundry list of eccentricities that are an integral part of each novel and novella.

Rex Stout has managed to pull off a feat unparalleled to this day: the perfect combination of deductive reasoning--as exemplified by the classic Golden Age writers such as Christie, Sayers, Van Dine, and Queen--with the hard-boiled attitude and dialogue of the more realistic tough guy writers such as Chandler, Macdonald, Hammett, and Robert B. Parker.

The toughness is brought to the books by Wolfe's leg man and amanuensis, Archie Goodwin. The structure and ambience of the books is, quite deliberately, very much like the Sherlock Holmes stories that Stout so admired. The house on West 35th Street is as familiar as the sitting room at 221B Baker Street; his cook Fritz pops up as regularly as Mrs. Hudson; and his irritant, Inspector Cramer of the NYPD, serves the same role as several Scotland Yard detectives, notably Inspector Lestrade, did for Holmes. Fair warning: It is safe to read one Nero Wolfe novel, because you will surely like it. It is extremely unsafe to read three, because you will forever be hooked on the delightful characters who populate these perfect books. --Otto Penzler

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:15 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

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)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 5 descriptions

Legacy Library: Rex Stout

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