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Not Quite Dead Enough

by Rex Stout

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Nero Wolfe (10)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8191523,390 (3.75)65
The army wants Nero Wolfe urgently, but he refuses their clarion call to duty. It takes Archie Goodwin to titillate Wolfe's taste for crime with two malevolent morsels: a corpse that refuses to rest in peace and a sinister "accident" involving national security. It's up to the Grandiose Master himself, Nero Wolfe, to set the traps to catch a pair of wily killers--as Archie lays the bait on the wrong side of the law.   Introduction by John Lutz   "It is always a treat to read a Nero Wolfe mystery. The man has entered our folklore."--The New York Times Book Review   A grand master of the form, Rex Stout is one of America's greatest mystery writers, and his literary creation Nero Wolfe is one of the greatest fictional detectives of all time. Together, Stout and Wolfe have entertained--and puzzled--millions of mystery fans around the world. Now, with his perambulatory man-about-town, Archie Goodwin, the arrogant, gourmandizing, sedentary sleuth is back in the original seventy-three cases of crime and detection written by the inimitable master himself, Rex Stout.… (more)
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» See also 65 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
4/9/22
  laplantelibrary | Apr 9, 2022 |
This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Not Quite Dead Enough
Series: Nero Wolfe #10
Author: Rex Stout
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 150
Words: 51K

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Not Quite Dead Enough

Archie has recently joined the Army and is now Major Goodwin. His high rank, as a rookie GI, reflects the fact that the Army recognizes and is making use of his civilian expertise by assigning him to domestic (counter) intelligence, specifically a unit based back in New York City, where Archie lived with his erstwhile boss Nero Wolfe before enlisting.

Since most of his civilian investigations had been done with Nero Wolfe, the Army also wishes to have Wolfe do intelligence investigations, but Wolfe thinks he didn't kill enough Germans in the previous war and so is more intent on joining the army as a soldier, not intelligence officer.

To this end, pleas from the Pentagon to this effect have been ignored, and indeed the whole household routine Wolfe is (in)famous for has already been abandoned during Archie's short absence in favor of strict adherence to wartime rations (inconsistent with gourmet dining) and losing weight, which Wolfe and Fritz Brenner (the live-in cook/chef) attempt by morning exercises on the west river banks, while letters not to mention mountains of other correspondence pile up in the previously tidy office/study in the brownstone. As ludicrous as the whole setup might seem, even Goodwin, when he arrives back in New York from Washington to discover it, is unable to budge Wolfe, at least at first.

Meanwhile, on the (scarce) flight back to New York from Washington, Archie has annoyed wealthy and beautiful Lily Rowan, whom he met earlier in Some Buried Caesar and with whom he has the beginnings of a romance, because he has no time for her, even though she has gone to great lengths to get the seat next to his. Lily, by way of counterattack as much as anything, asks him to look into a problem a girl-friend of hers is having. Archie, having assessed the grim situation at Wolfe's brownstone, seizes an opportunity to be doing something useful, even if he isn't directly carrying out his assignment from the Pentagon.

Archie (who tells this story as he does all Wolfe stories), likes Lily but wants to be in control, and in an impish assertion of independence he takes Lily's friend to the Flamingo nightclub as part of his "investigation", causing Lily to storm home in a mild fit of jealousy. But soon she asks Archie's help in a bigger problem: her friend is dead. After rushing to the scene, Archie decides to implicate himself in the crime and get his picture in the paper, reasoning that getting him out of jail is no more foolish a war effort for Wolfe than pathetic dockside exercises. In the end, Archie carries out his assignment from the Pentagon (despite having his picture in the paper as a murder suspect), Lily gets herself a boyfriend, and Wolfe solves the underlying crime, but not without teaching both Lily and Archie a thing or two about the consequences of mixing business with romance.

Booby Trap

Major Goodwin has been working for Army Intelligence for some time already, and has recently concluded a dangerous mission concerning another problem besides the Nazis: greed by munitions contractors jockeying for post-war power, in the present case by industrial espionage concerning an advanced type of grenade.

Although Archie has managed to unravel a major piece of the puzzle by a recent mission in the South, another officer in his unit, Captain Cross, has just been murdered at a New York hotel, and the remaining members of the unit, plus Wolfe and Congressman Shattuck, have gathered in an Army office to discuss some anonymous letters that Shattuck, as Chairman of a Congressional war committee, has been receiving about how industrial espionage is compromising the war effort and is therefore a national security matter. During the meeting, one of the officers, whose son has just been killed in action in Europe, suddenly announces that he wants to go to Washington to confer with General Carpenter, the Pentagon official in charge of the unit. He has brought a suitcase with him, and his highly irregular request is granted. Earlier, Archie has been issued one of the advanced grenades in question which he kept in Wolfe's house, now his Army barracks, mostly as a souvenir, but Wolfe didn't like to have it in the house, and before the meeting Archie has returned the grenade to the Army—i.e. the same office.

The meeting breaks up, since the unit is rapidly depleting (one dead, another heading to Washington, the rest under scrutiny because of the letters). As Wolfe and Goodwin are returning to the building later on the same day, a massive explosion is heard. Since the building is operated clandestinely by Army Intelligence, the NYPD, in the shape of Inspector Cramer show up, but Wolfe and Goodwin's uncooperativeness, normal as it has been in civilian matters, confuses Cramer now that Goodwin wears an Army uniform — the same uniform Cramer's son is wearing in Australia.[1]

The story ends with Archie taking another date to the Flamingo Club — and not Lily Rowan. Unlike a Sam Spade or Raymond Chandler story, any actual romantic impulses that Archie may have are cleared into the wings, and even this final action is not necessarily a celebration but may itself contribute to the war effort in its own small way.

My Thoughts:

Another 2 novellas squashed into 1 book. The format took me by surprise with Black Orchids but it worked out really well here. Archie being in the Army for World War II was a bit disconcerting at first but since it didn't actually affect the story line (his assignment was to get Wolfe working on a piece of intelligence work for his country) besides jerking the cops around a bit (more than usual that is), it quickly became background information.

I have to admit that my distaste for WWI or II stories came into play while reading this. More in that I just glazed over details as they just didn't interest me.

This was the first story where a returning female occurs. We had met Lily Rowan before in Some Buried Caesar and she had fallen head over heels for Archie. She is a control freak used to getting her own way and Archie is an arrogant blowhard used to getting his own way. In other words, a match made in Hell. It did make me laugh to see the sparks fly! I don't expect to see her again, as Archie seems allergic to settling down or being committed.

★★★★☆ ( )
  BookstoogeLT | Feb 19, 2022 |
It was the first time I had ever seen the top mackaroo of United States Army Intelligence. He was in uniform and had two chins and a pair of eyes that wasted neither time nor space. I was perfectly willing to shake hands, but he just said to sit down, glanced at a paper on top of a pile and told me in a dry brittle voice that my name was Archie Goodwin. I nodded noncommittal. For all I knew it was a military secret.
He inquired acidly, "What the hell is the matter with Nero Wolfe?"
  taurus27 | Nov 22, 2021 |
For a number of reasons, Not Quite Dead Enough, comprised of two novellas published under a single title, is probably the most fascinating Nero Wolfe book that I’ve read. The first of the two novellas, Not Quite Dead Enough, was originally published in 1942 in an abridged format in the December edition of The American Magazine, and the second, Booby Trap, was abridged for the same magazine in August 1944. But the most fun thing about the novellas is that, because they were written and published in the midst of World War II, Stout decides to remove Wolfe from his NYC apartment cocoon and force him to cope (which he does rather effectively) in the real world.

Not Quite Dead Enough begins with Archie Goodwin, now a newly promoted Army major, tasked with convincing his old boss Nero Wolfe that Wolfe should apply his investigatory talents to furthering America’s war efforts — free of charge, of course. Archie agrees to give it a try, but receives the shock of his life when he attempts to surprise Wolfe by showing up at Wolfe’s apartment unannounced. Neither Wolfe nor Fritz (the cook) are anywhere to be seen; every surface in the apartment is dusty, piles of unopened mail are on Wolfe’s desk, and even Wolfe’s beloved orchids are being ignored. Are the two men dead or have they been kidnapped? Neither, as it turns out.

Even more amazingly, Wolfe (a World War I veteran) and Fritz are getting themselves in shape to join the army so that, as Wolfe puts it, they can “kill Germans.” Archie, though, has the perfect way to get Wolfe back in the game: a dead woman who moves around even after she quits breathing.

By the time that novella number two, Booby Trap, begins, Wolfe has agreed to help the army investigate the murder of an officer who may have been involved in a plan to profit from advanced weapons technology being readied for battlefield deployment. Either the dead colonel was in the middle of the scheme or he knew too much about it to be allowed to live another minute. Either way, Wolfe considers everyone involved to be traitors to the country during a time of war, and he badly wants to nail them.

Bottom Line: The two novellas in Not Quite Dead Enough give Nero Wolfe the chance to show a different side of his personality. In both novellas, readers get a glimpse of a patriotic, much less self-absorbed, and much more ruthless Nero Wolfe than they expected ever to see. Wolfe has always been willing to be both “judge and jury” during his investigations. Now the question is whether he is also willing to be “executioner.” ( )
  SamSattler | Sep 8, 2021 |
This is actually two stories in one though they are intertwined. It's 1942-ish and the war is on. Archie Goodwin is in the military, and being a good investigator he's in the intelligence wing of the army. Unfortunately not all military resources is not enough to solve everything so Nero Wolfe will be needed.

It's a fair story. Nothing special except for possibly one of the better female characters so far. ( )
  bratell | Dec 25, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rex Stoutprimary authorall editionscalculated
Gregg, GeraldCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lutz, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prichard, MichaelNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rubinek, SaulNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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NOT QUITE DEAD ENOUGH: We swooped down and hit the concrete alongside the Potomac at 1:20 p.m. on a raw Monday in early March.

BOOBY TRAP: On our way out of the house—his house, which was also his office, on West 35th Street over near the North River—Nero Wolfe, who was ahead of me, stopped so abruptly that I nearly bumped into him.
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The army wants Nero Wolfe urgently, but he refuses their clarion call to duty. It takes Archie Goodwin to titillate Wolfe's taste for crime with two malevolent morsels: a corpse that refuses to rest in peace and a sinister "accident" involving national security. It's up to the Grandiose Master himself, Nero Wolfe, to set the traps to catch a pair of wily killers--as Archie lays the bait on the wrong side of the law.   Introduction by John Lutz   "It is always a treat to read a Nero Wolfe mystery. The man has entered our folklore."--The New York Times Book Review   A grand master of the form, Rex Stout is one of America's greatest mystery writers, and his literary creation Nero Wolfe is one of the greatest fictional detectives of all time. Together, Stout and Wolfe have entertained--and puzzled--millions of mystery fans around the world. Now, with his perambulatory man-about-town, Archie Goodwin, the arrogant, gourmandizing, sedentary sleuth is back in the original seventy-three cases of crime and detection written by the inimitable master himself, Rex Stout.

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