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A Right to Die (1964)

by Rex Stout

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Nero Wolfe (40)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8751524,242 (3.87)35
Fiction. Mystery. Suspense. Thriller. HTML:When a bright young heiress with a flair for romance and one too many enemies is found brutally murdered, Nero Wolfe and his sidekick, Archie, find themselves embroiled in a case that is not as black and white as it first appears.


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Susan Brooke has everything going for her.  Men would have killed themselves to marry her, and, in fact, one did.



Susan came to New York to find love and fulfillment, and ended up dead on a tenement floor.  The police say her black fiance did it, but Wolfe has other ideas.  Before he's done, he'll prove that good intentions and bad deeds often go hand in hand and that the highest ideals can sometimes have the deadliest consequences.… (more)
  1. 00
    The Mother Shadow by Melodie Johnson Howe (benfulton)
    benfulton: Claire Conrad and Maggie Hill are a female Wolfe and Goodwin.
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» See also 35 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
Wolfe's client, Paul Whipple, is a blast from the past - last seen as a key witness is #5 Too Many Cooks, he has come to Wolfe on behalf of his son, Dunbar. Dunbar is deep in the civil rights struggle and has fallen in love with a rich white woman, Susan Brooke, who is volunteering for the same organization, the ROCC. Daddy Whipple doesn't like the idea of the interracial marriage and wants Wolfe to look into Susan's background and make sure she's not trying to Make A Pronouncement with this decision to marry across race. Archie duly meets with Miss Brooke and scours her background, finding nothing wanting, only to be called back to New York because Susan has been found dead - and Dunbar made the discovery.

The case shifts now to Dunbar's defense, as he has been arrested on suspicion of murder. Wolfe doesn't believe Dunbar would kill his future fiancee, but he discovers plenty of people in their lives who also disapprove of an interracial marriage - including Susan's own family. Only when a second person ends up dead does the answer finally become clear, and it's a race against time before a third person is in the killer's crosshairs.

This is about what you'd expect for Nero Wolfe Takes on Civil Rights. He infamously has no regard for women at all, so the question is but a theoretical one to him, but he has a rather unique point of view, as he is not a white American or of the class for whom this is such a thorny issue. He more or less stays out of the racial aspect, but it gets predictably ugly when the murderer shows their true colors.

I should like the idea of the final clue being a linguistic one, but honestly it felt like such a reach after 150 pages of tail-chasing that it falls a little flat for me. I'd consider this a pretty middle of the road offering for a series perhaps already past its prime. Worthy of reading, but maybe not one to specifically seek out. ( )
  eurohackie | Nov 11, 2023 |
2020 review of audiobook edition, narrated by Michael Pritchard:
The beginning of this entry in the Nero Wolfe series brought to my attention something that I had not really considered much before (unrelated to the plot). This book was published 30 years after the first book in the series & in all that time, none of the inhabitants on the brownstone on 35th Street have really aged (none of the regular or semi-regular characters have). Archie is still going out dancing and flirting with the women he meets as he did in the early books. What brought this to my notice was that the client in this book was Paul Whipple, someone who had, as a very young man, helped Wolfe in "Too Many Cooks" (book 5 of the series). Now he is a middle-aged man with a son in his 20s engaged to be married.

Now, if Paul Whipple is somewhere between 45 and 50, Archie should be 60 and Wolfe even older. One would think that Stout would have struggled with this dilemma but in true Nero Wolfe style, he dismisses it as beneath notice. By nary a word is this breach in logic even hinted at. And he pulls it off!

As for the plot of this book - I vacillated between 3.5 and 4 stars. I thought that the mystery was 3.5* but the social commentary about the Civil Rights movement and race relations during the early 1960s made it worth the extra half star. Wolfe truly does not care what color a man's skin is - just what his character and intellect are. Ironically, several of the black suspects feel that he is treating them badly because of their race, not realizing that he acts that way with everyone! ( )
  leslie.98 | Jun 27, 2023 |
Great book, too short though. It has been a long time since we've listened to a Nero Wolfe mystery. We have missed Michael Prichard and Rex Stout. A fabulous mystery. Some wonderful laughs and a satisfactory conclusion. I wish there were many more. Delighted to find one we had missed. ( )
  njcur | Mar 24, 2023 |
Nero Wolfe investigates death of young white woman engaged to marry black civil rights worker. Her fiancé is accused and Wolfe owes his father a favor.
  ritaer | Nov 5, 2022 |
4/9/22
  laplantelibrary | Apr 9, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rex Stoutprimary authorall editionscalculated
Guttmann, Renate√úbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prichard, MichaelNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vammelvuo, HannoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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He had no appointment and, looking at him across the doorsill, it didn't seem likely that he would be bringing the first big fee of 1964.
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Fiction. Mystery. Suspense. Thriller. HTML:When a bright young heiress with a flair for romance and one too many enemies is found brutally murdered, Nero Wolfe and his sidekick, Archie, find themselves embroiled in a case that is not as black and white as it first appears.



Susan Brooke has everything going for her.  Men would have killed themselves to marry her, and, in fact, one did.



Susan came to New York to find love and fulfillment, and ended up dead on a tenement floor.  The police say her black fiance did it, but Wolfe has other ideas.  Before he's done, he'll prove that good intentions and bad deeds often go hand in hand and that the highest ideals can sometimes have the deadliest consequences.

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