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And Be a Villain (1948)

by Rex Stout

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Nero Wolfe: Arnold Zeck Trilogy (1), Nero Wolfe (13)

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1,0442419,286 (3.94)56
Fiction. Mystery. Suspense. Thriller. HTML:Madeline Fraser, radio talk show host extraordinaire, had a natural dread of dead air. So when one of her on-air guests signed off at the mike after drinking a glass of a sponsorâ??s beverage, it was a broadcasterâ??s nightmare come true. Enter Nero Wolfe. He agrees to take the case, with his sizable fee contingent on his solving the murder. But to Wolfeâ??s surprise, everyone connected to the case now lies in unison about it. And as the portly detective soon discovers, the secret worth lying about only hides another worth killing for.
 
Introduction by Maan Meyers
 
â??It is always a treat to read a Nero Wolfe mystery. The man has entered our folklore.â?ťâ??The New York Times Book Review
 
A grand master of the form, Rex Stout is one of Americaâ??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 entertainedâ??and puzzledâ??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
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» See also 56 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
Archie & Wolfe were up to their standard forms and this book introduces the criminal mastermind Arnold Zeck (Stout's version of Moriarty) who appears in several other later books in the series. ( )
  leslie.98 | Jun 27, 2023 |
I was introduced to Nero Wolfe through the amazing Nero Wolfe A&E series, so I see Maury Chaykin as Nero Wolfe and Timothy Hutton as Archie Goodwin, et al. So, after a hiatus of several years, I got a hold of And Be a Villain and liked it, so I decided to get them all so I could read them in order (from 1934 to 1975).

This one is number 13: And Be a Villain. Always in need of money, big spending Nero Wolfe, the team takes on a possible case at another of those big businesses that could only really exist in New York City. Someone has died on a radio show and was it murder? Wolfe, for money, seeks to find out. More deaths, blackmail, some good meals, and Archie wisecrackery.

This is the one that made me want to read them all, so it did a good job. I re-read it recently, in order with the others, to see how it fit in to the Wolfe timeline: pretty good. ( )
  tuckerresearch | Jul 21, 2022 |
4/9/22
  laplantelibrary | Apr 9, 2022 |
Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe series is the first detective series I remember getting myself hooked on. The good news back then (the mid-sixties) was discovering that the series had started years before I was born (with 1934’s Fer-de-Lance), so there were already lots of Nero Wolfe books for me to enjoy. Even better, Stout kept writing new ones every couple of years right up until his death in 1975, so for a long time there was always another new Nero Wolf story to look forward to. And as I’ve just been reminded, author Robert Goldsborough added another sixteen Nero Wolfe/Archie Goodwin books between 1986 and 2021, meaning I have even more Nero Wolfe material to explore now than I ever imagined.

As I began And Be a Villain, I had vivid memories of the Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin characters and the amusing relationship that developed between them over the years. Theirs was/is much more than an employer/employee relationship; the men respect each other, care for each other, and are real friends. That, in fact, is part of what makes their verbal sparring so much fun. But even though this is not the first time I’ve read And Be a Villain, I remembered very little about it’s actual plot, so reading it now was almost like reading it for the first time.

Nero Wolfe is almost literally an “armchair detective” — and he’s a good one. Wolfe is a large man (I picture him as someone approaching a weight of 300 pounds) who refuses to leave his New York City apartment for any reason. Archie Goodwin, considerably younger than Wolfe, and a whole lot more agile, does all of the leg work involved in a Nero Wolfe investigation. In the meantime, Wolfe happily follows his own schedule of meals at specific times and two daily sessions with his beloved orchids.

This time around, popular radio talk show host Madeline Fraser has had the unthinkable happen during one of her live broadcasts. A guest has dropped dead on-air after taking a sip of from a soda provided by one of the show’s sponsors. All the police know for certain is that someone slipped cyanide into one of the bottles, and that this particular guest drew the unlucky bottle. It is exactly the kind of case that appeals to Wolfe, and because he has a large tax bill due just when his cash flow is at a low point, he offers his services to the radio network and the show’s sponsors on a contingent basis. If he solves the case before the police do it — or if the police solve it only because of a Wolfe-provided clue — he cashes their $20,000 check. If he fails, they get the check back.

But when Wolfe gathers up all the principals involved with Madeline Fraser’s radio show, he makes his first discovery: they are all lying — maybe not all for the same reason, but each and every one of them is holding something back. And that’s a fatal mistake, because now Nero Wolfe is ticked.

Bottom Line: And Be a Villain (1948) is the thirteenth Nero Wolfe mystery, and by this time fans of the series were familiar with the Wolfe and Goodwin characters. Feature films based on the Rex Stout characters had been produced by 1948, and television was going to make Nero Wolfe a household name in various TV series over the coming decades. The Nero Wolfe novels are usually not very long, but they are always satisfying. Fans of character-driven mysteries will particularly enjoy them, I think, but the mysteries are always solidly constructed ones that readers will also enjoy trying to solve before Wolfe gives them all the answers. ( )
  SamSattler | Aug 29, 2021 |
My first Nero Wolfe and I will come back for more. The case involves a man who died on the radio, during a broadcast, when his drink, High Top, a sponsor of the show, is laced with poison and kills him on the air. You can imagine the sensation! Wolfe and his associate Archie Goodwin, are on the case. The criminal is sneaky but you suspect them from the start. The proving is the fun part. I think that Wolfe, a man who rarely leaves his home to do anything, is an interesting hero and Archie has some of the best one-liners written down. ( )
  Colleen5096 | Oct 29, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rex Stoutprimary authorall editionscalculated
Ahmavaara, EeroTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Meyers, MaanIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prichard, MichaelNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Meet it is I set it down,
That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain...

---Hamlet, Act I
Dedication
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For the third time I went over the final additions and subtractions on the first page of Form 1040, to make good and sure.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Fiction. Mystery. Suspense. Thriller. HTML:Madeline Fraser, radio talk show host extraordinaire, had a natural dread of dead air. So when one of her on-air guests signed off at the mike after drinking a glass of a sponsorâ??s beverage, it was a broadcasterâ??s nightmare come true. Enter Nero Wolfe. He agrees to take the case, with his sizable fee contingent on his solving the murder. But to Wolfeâ??s surprise, everyone connected to the case now lies in unison about it. And as the portly detective soon discovers, the secret worth lying about only hides another worth killing for.
 
Introduction by Maan Meyers
 
â??It is always a treat to read a Nero Wolfe mystery. The man has entered our folklore.â?ťâ??The New York Times Book Review
 
A grand master of the form, Rex Stout is one of Americaâ??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 entertainedâ??and puzzledâ??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

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