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Fer-de-Lance by Rex Stout

Fer-de-Lance (1934)

by Rex Stout

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Nero Wolfe (1)

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Showing 1-5 of 43 (next | show all)
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 |
I enjoyed this book more than I thought I might. It was well written and the characters were better fleshed out than many mysteries. However, I think I would find Archie’s breezy style of repartee very annoying if I read more of the Nero Wolfe books. A little of that goes a long way with me. Nero Wolfe did annoy me, especially since I don’t think he’s a genius (a word that was bandied about too much in this book), and I think he’s arrogant, selfish, abusive, murderous, and superior. Yes, he’s good at putting clues together and reading the intentions and characters of others, but that’s where it ends. Genius requires considerably more. It was fun to see how Archie worked and a little of New York in the 30’s, but Archie should have been aware of the lines of men waiting for work all over town and the lines of families waiting for the food kitchens. None of that was ever said. There were several little things that didn’t fit, but that’s true of most mysteries, so I forgave it. Archie needs to stand up for himself again Wolfe more, but given the economic times I can see why he might not. It would have been nice for Stout to write that into the book so we didn’t think that Archie was so weak. ( )
  whymaggiemay | Jun 23, 2016 |
This book is a bit sexist and racist in that old fashioned unthinking way. Of cousre I may be misinterpreting some of the slang. The story is good and told entirely from Archie Goodwin's POV. Will Appeal to people who enjoy Sherlock and Miss Fisher ( )
  SashaM | Apr 20, 2016 |
Six-word review: Classic mystery still delivers satisfying entertainment.

Extended review:

Following an impulse to renew my former familiarity with the Nero Wolfe series after forty-plus years, I began with a used paperback of the first one, Fer-de-Lance, which I purchased online. This happens to be a 1992 reissue from Bantam, and it begins with an introduction by one Loren D. Estleman, whom I don't know. Estleman gives a brief overview of the series and observes that there's no need to worry about reading the books in order because Rex Stout avoided the problem of confusing chronology "by the simple expedient of never changing his characters." How he got them right from the very beginning is a marvel that I had never contemplated before.

I approached this reread with very few memories of specific cases and none of the outcomes, meaning that I could read them all as if new. What I remember--no spoiler here--is the framework: the house setup, the daily routine, the relationship between Wolfe and Archie, the final showdown scene, and how the culprit is always outed in the end. I'm delighted to return to that world-righting certainty, especially after a few too many contemporary murder mysteries in which the author decided to treat us to existential angst instead of a satisfying solution.

Estleman concludes the introduction with this paragraph:

This is a world where all things make sense in time, a world better than our own. If you are an old hand making a return swing through its orbit, welcome back; pull up the red leather chair and sit down. If this is your first trip, I envy you the surprises that await you behind that unprepossessing front door.

I can't remember the last time, if ever, I was ushered into a book by an introduction that addresses repeat readers. That alone suggests how well the series holds up.

Not that this 1934 novel fully withstands scrutiny with a 21st-century lens; dated references aside (how many of us remember Decoration Day?), there are clear, inescapable instances of ethnic and gender stereotyping and prejudice that would never get past the guardians of PC today. For example, one character is suspect because he "look(s) like a foreigner"--a defect that narrator Archie expresses using an epithet that I've never heard before, but that plainly isn't very nice; and young female office workers are girls, but when one is replaced by a male of the same age, he's a man.

However, I do believe that we have to allow for attitudes that are products of their place and time, which is not to condone them, but neither is it to condemn them for not being three-quarters of a century ahead of their time. I'm certainly not going to deny myself the pleasure of revisiting the world of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin on that account. Not when I know that I can rely on it, just as Estleman says, to present a place where truth, order, and justice prevail. That's what I want from an old-fashioned murder mystery, that and the illusion that real life could sometimes work that way. Because the world I come from doesn't.

Fer-de-Lance brings us a full-scale exhibition of Nero Wolfe's eccentricity, audacity, and blazing brilliance right from the start: a missing-persons inquiry leads straight to a deduction of murder from a few seemingly unrelated clues. Finding hard evidence to back up what appears to be a bizarre conjecture becomes the task of Wolfe and his associates. Wolfe allows neither convention nor possible legal impediment to stand in the way of his pursuit of the truth.

Although the climactic final confrontation scene that is the hallmark of a Nero Wolfe mystery does not occur in this initial episode, everything necessary is present. The story drew me in, held my attention, fulfilled its promises, and delivered a satisfactory ending. How nice to know there are several dozen more where this came from. ( )
2 vote Meredy | Mar 10, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 43 (next | show all)
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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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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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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)

» see all 4 descriptions

Legacy Library: Rex Stout

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