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Too Many Cooks by Rex Stout
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Too Many Cooks (1938)

by Rex Stout

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Nero Wolfe (5)

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7801618,315 (3.95)84
The guest at a gathering of the greatest chefs in the world, Nero Wolfe must practice his own trade--sleuthing--when he discovers that a murderer is in their midst.
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» See also 84 mentions

English (14)  Portuguese (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (16)
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
A Nero Wolfe Mystery Book 5
  kitchengardenbooks | Jul 30, 2019 |
the mystery itself, once you get to it and through it, is actually quite excellent and satisfying. the clues he uses to get to the truth are minor but plausible, and not at all obvious, but also not so small that it's inconceivable. i wasn't a fan of the narration, but i can see how someone could be. same with spending time with archie and nero - they weren't fun to be around for me, but it's definitely possible, maybe even likely, that with time that would change. this is a slim volume so maybe just reading a longer one of the series, or another one or two, would do it. i'm not sure.

but my main issue with the book was that the racism and sexism was a bit too much. it didn't feel like the kind of racism that just comes with the time, somehow. i mean it was, and to some extent you can forgive that (as much as you can forgive that, that is), but this felt...like a white person's excuse for racism? because this book featured race prominently, it wasn't just casual racism in the characters that i, as a white person, could put aside probably more easily than someone of color reading this could; i have the privilege of being able to set that aside and say it's just that it takes place in 1937 and not let it bother me. but it was more than that. it was a white man writing for white men, in a way to make them feel good about some amount of tolerance and acceptance. but not getting to a real position of equality in the way he viewed people or talked to people. i don't know how to explain it, but it felt like more than what you'd expect with the times. but i also know that i don't allow for how bad it was (or probably even fully acknowledge how bad it is) then.

bottom line - the mystery was really good but the writing wasn't a style i liked (it took me way too long to get into the story for a book so thin) and i had too much trouble getting past the racism, and a little trouble with the sexism. it doesn't really matter, but i also hate the cover of this edition, passionately. ( )
  overlycriticalelisa | Apr 18, 2018 |
Nero Wolfe leaves his brownstone in NYC to attend a gastronomical gathering as the guest of honor. During the event, one of the chefs is murdered and Wolfe gets chivvied into investigating. ( )
  leslie.98 | Nov 19, 2017 |
By consensus, the best of the Nero Wolfe books and a classic mystery. Wolfe is invited to the Kanawha Spa in West Virginia (probably based on the Greenbriar) to give a talk on American contributions to cuisine to "The Fifteen" an association of the best professional chefs in the world (including Wolfe's good friend Marko Vukcic) . At the event, one of the Fifteen is murdered, and another is accused of the crime.Wolfe clears him after obtaining evidence from one of the black waiters (who reappears in A Right to Die as an older man). The atmosphere of the event and the exotic characters of the Fifteen are superbly done. In a romantic subplot, yhe accused chef (Jerome Berin) has a beautiful daughter who attracts both Archie and the young DA of the county where the murder occurs. Another complication is that the dead chef was married to Mark Vukcic's former wife, and Mark still feels a strong attachment to her.m despite Wolfe's earnings. ( )
  antiquary | Jul 13, 2016 |
Six-word review: 1930s Southern racism makes story painful.

Extended review:

I've stated my opinion that an author oughtn't to be faulted for accurately reflecting prevailing or common views and attitudes of his or her own time and place; or, I suppose, of others' if faithfully represented. For every way in which social progress has improved conditions, there was a time before that progress in which views were held that we would now consider unacceptable; for example, demeaning attitudes toward women.

Several recent readings have tested my commitment to that opinion, most notably the novels of John Buchan (1910s) and Neville Shute (1940s), with their depiction of native Africans and Australians, respectively; or, more precisely, their depiction of white men's view of them. I've managed to read through the portions that are objectionable by today's standards, saying that people really did think and speak that way and that we shouldn't forget what it is that people have struggled to overcome.

Rex Stout's Too Many Cooks, however, exceeds my limits of tolerance. It is set in a Southern state in 1938, and the race of black Americans is a key issue in the plot. Even though the most offensive speech and behavior are expressed as those of characters belonging to that culture, the language of the narrator and various other characters throughout is simply too condescending, superior, and even contemptuous to be read with equanimity in 2016. Not only blacks but women and even Chinese come in for some heavy-handed stereotyping that is bound to choke most modern readers. Nero Wolfe makes a speech against racism and for justice:

"The ideal human agreement is one in which distinctions of race and color and religion are totally disregarded; anyone helping to preserve those distinctions is postponing that ideal...." (page 110)

but that is not enough to offset the effects of unapologetically racist representations expressed--perhaps even with harmless intent--throughout.

For that reason, even though the story is a good enough series mystery, solved by fair means--an interesting setup, and the clues are all present, but only Nero Wolfe puts them all together--I regret rereading this one and can't recommend it except to students of evolving social attitudes in the United States of the twentieth century. ( )
1 vote Meredy | May 17, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Stout, Rexprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Amstel, Evelien vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Askeland, ElsaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Borthen, LeifTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Borthen, LeifAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Golinelli, AlessandroTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McAleer, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Neumann, MartinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nogueira, CelsoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pennanen, EilaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pitta, AlfredoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prichard, MichaelNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Straub, PeterIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Walking up and down the platform alongside the train in the Pennsylvania Station, having wiped the sweat from my brow, I lit a cigarette with the feeling that after it had calmed my nerves a little I would be prepared to submit bids for a contract to move the Pyramid of Cheops from Egypt to the top of the Empire State Building with my bare hands, in a swimming suit; after what I had just gone through.
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