Nero Wolfe / Rex Stout


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Rex Stout & Nero Wolfe Mysteries


Rex StoutRex Todhunter Stout (1886 – 1975) was an American writer noted for his detective fiction, particularly the 33 novels and 41 novellas that featured the detective Nero Wolfe and his assistant Archie Goodwin between 1934 and 1975.

Stout was born in Noblesville, Indiana, in 1886, but shortly afterwards his Quaker parents moved their family (nine children in all) to Kansas. His father was a teacher who encouraged his son to read, and Rex had read the entire Bible twice by the time he was four years old. He was also the state spelling bee champion at age 13. Stout attended Topeka High School,and the University of Kansas, Lawrence. His sister, Ruth Stout, authored several non-fiction books. 

Stout served in the U.S. Navy from 1906 to 1908 (including service as a yeoman on Theodore Roosevelt’s presidential yacht) and then spent the next four years working at a series of jobs in six states, including cigar-store clerk. 

Not his writing, but his invention of a school banking system in 1916 gave him enough money to travel in Europe extensively. About 400 U.S. schools adopted his system for keeping track of the money that school children saved in accounts at school, and he was paid royalties. In 1916, Stout married Fay Kennedy of Topeka, Kansas. They divorced in February 1932 and, in December 1932, Stout married Pola Weinbach Hoffmann, a designer who had studied with Josef Hoffmann in Vienna.

Rex Stout began his literary career in the 1910s writing for pulp magazines, authoring more than 40 stories that appeared between 1912 and 1918. The early stories spanned genres including romance, adventure, science fiction/fantasy, and detective fiction, including two serialized murder mystery novellas that prefigured elements of the Wolfe stories. In 1916, he tired of cranking out stories on a deadline and decided to change careers until he had enough resources to write as he pleased. He wrote no fiction for more than a decade, until the late 1920s, when he had sufficient savings. Ironically, just as Stout started to write fiction again, he lost all his money when the stock market crashed. In 1929, he wrote his first published book How Like a God, an unusual psychological story published by the Vanguard Press which he had helped to found. During this phase of his writing career, Stout also published a political thriller The President Vanishes (1934).

In the 1930s, Stout turned to writing detective fiction. In 1933-34, he wrote Fer-de-Lance, which introduced Nero Wolfe and his assistant Archie Goodwin. The characters of Wolfe and Goodwin are considered Stout’s main contributions to detective fiction. In 1937, Stout created Dol Bonner in The Hand in the Glove, a female private detective who reappeared in his Nero Wolfe stories. She was a very early example of the female PI protagonist. He also created two other detectives, Tecumseh Fox and Alphabet Hicks. After 1938, Stout focused solely on the mystery field, and after 1940, almost exclusively on the Nero Wolfe stories. Stout continued writing the Nero Wolfe series for the rest of his life, publishing at least one per year through 1966 (with the exception of wartime 1943), and later added four more Nero Wolfe novels prior to his death in 1975, aged 88.

In 1942, Stout described himself as a “pro-Labor, pro-New Deal, pro-Roosevelt left liberal”. During World War II, he worked with the advocacy group Friends of Democracy, chaired the Writers’ War Board (a propaganda organization), and supported the embryonic United Nations. He lobbied for Franklin D. Roosevelt to accept a fourth term as President. He developed an extreme anti-German attitude and wrote the provocative essay “We Shall Hate, or We Shall Fail” which generated a flood of protests after its 1943 publication in The New York Times. This attitude is expressed by Nero Wolfe in the 1942 novella, Not Quite Dead Enough. In 1942, Stout broadcast the first of 62 wartime episodes of Our Secret Weapon on CBS Radio. During the later part of the war and the post-war period, he also led the Society for the Prevention of World War III which lobbied for a harsh peace for Germany. The House Committee on Un-American Activities chairman Martin Dies called him a Communist, and Stout is reputed to have replied, “I hate Communists as much as you do, Martin, but there’s one difference between us. I know what a Communist is and you don’t.” Stout was one of many American writers closely watched by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI. Hoover considered him either a Communist or a tool of Communist-dominated groups. About a third of Stout’s FBI file is devoted to his 1965 novel The Doorbell Rang.

In later years, Stout alienated some readers with his hawkish stance on the Vietnam War and with the contempt for communism expressed in some of his works. The latter viewpoint is given voice in the 1952 novella “Home to Roost” (first published as Nero Wolfe and the Communist Killer) and most notably in the 1949 novel, The Second Confession. In this work, Archie and Wolfe express their dislike for “Commies”, while at the same time Wolfe arranges for the firing of a virulently anti-Communist broadcaster, likening him to “Hitler” and “Mussolini.”

In 1958, Rex Stout became the 14th president of the Mystery Writers of America. In 1959, Stout received the MWA’s prestigious Grand Master Award. The Nero Wolfe corpus was nominated Best Mystery Series of the Century at Bouchercon XXXI, the world’s largest mystery convention, and Rex Stout was nominated Best Mystery Writer of the Century.

There are a total of 74 Nero Wolfe mysteries, consisting of 47 book, with 33 full-length novels and 41 novellas. Most of the novellas were first published in magazines, then as books with usually three novellas per book, some have two and one has four. The first novel, Fer-de-Lance, was published in 1934. the last, Death Times Three, was published in 1975.

Edited from Wikipedia Rex Stout

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Nero Wolfe Novels


fer de lanceFer-de-Lance (1934)

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Best Review
****

Note: A deadly gift!

As any herpetologist will tell you, the fer-de-lance is among the most dreaded snakes known to man. When someone makes a present of one to Nero Wolfe, Archie Goodwin knows he’s getting dreadully close to solving the devilishly clever murders of an immigrant and a college president. As for Wolfe, he’s playing snake charmer in a case with more twists than an anaconda – whistling a seductive tune he hopes will catch a killer who’s still got poison in his heart.

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league frightenedThe League of Frightened Men (1935)

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Best Review
****

Note: Not so forgiven?

Paul Chapin’s college cronies never forgave themselves for the prank that crippled their friend. Yet with Harvard days behind them, they thought they were forgiven – until a class reunion ends in a fatal fall. This league of frightened men seeks Nero Wolfe’s help. But are Wolfe’s brilliance and Archie’s tenacity enough to outwit a most cunning killer?

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rubber bandThe Rubber Band (1936)

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Best Review
****

Note: An odd connection!

What do a Wild West lynching and a respected English nobleman have in common? On the surface, absolutely nothing. But when a young woman hires his services, it becomes Nero Wolfe’s job to look deeper and find the connection. A forty-year-old pact, a five-thousand-mile search, and a million-dollar murder are all linked to an international scandal that could rebound on the great detective and his partner, Archie, with fatal abruptness.

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red boxThe Red Box (1937)

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Best Review
****

Note: Poisoned chocolates!

A lovely woman is dead, and the fortunes of overextended theatrical producer Llewellyn Frost depend on solving the mystery of the red box: two pounds of candied fruits, nuts and creams, covered with chocolate – and laced with potassium cyanide.When Nero Wolfe’s suspicion falls on Frost’s kissing cousin, Frost wants the detective to kill the sickly sweet case – before it kills him.

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too many cooksToo Many Cooks (1938)

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Best Review
****

Note: Gourmet murder?

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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buried caesarSome Buried Caesar (1939)

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Best Review
****

Note: A special killer!

A prize bull, a restauranteur’s tacky publicity stunt, a family feud (among the bull’s owners), and the death of a family scion pit Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin against a special breed of killer.

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my dead bodyOver My Dead Body (1940)

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Best Review
****

Note: Wolfe’s long lost daughter?

When a Balkan beauty gets in trouble over some missing diamonds, whom else can she turn to but the world-famous Nero Wolfe? Especially since she claims to be Wolfe’s long lost daughter! The stakes are suddenly raised when a student at this woman’s fencing school ends up dead after a pointed lesson. As Wolfe and his sidekick, Archie, thrust and parry into a tangle of documents, identities and international intrigue, another student body turns up, expertly skewered through the heart. Is Wolfe’s long lost daughter the black sheep of the family, a hot-blooded mistress of murder?

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where willWhere There’s a Will (1940)

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Best Review
****

Note: A legacy of murder?

Investigating the bizarre will of late multimillionaire Noel Hawthorne – who left the bulk of his estate to his mistress and nearly nothing to his three sisters – astute sleuth Nero Wolfe stumbles upon a legacy of murder.

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black orchidsBlack Orchids (1942)

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Best Review
****

Note: Contains Black Orchids and Cordially Invited to Meet Death

Not much can get Wolfe to leave his comfortable brownstone, but the showing of a rare black orchid lures him to a flower show. Unfortunately, the much-anticipated event is soon overshadowed by a murder as daring as it is sudden. It’s a case of weeding out a cunning killer who can turn up anywhere – and Wolfe must do it quickly. Because a second case awaits his urgent attention: a society widow on a mailing list of poison-pen letters leading to a plot as dark as any orchid Wolfe has ever encountered.

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not quite deadNot Quite Dead Enough (1944)

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Best Review
****

Note: Contains Not Quite Dead Enough and Booby Trap

Called upon to investigate a sinister “accident” involving national security, Nero Wolfe must set the traps that will catch the pair of wily killers responsible.

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silent speakerThe Silent Speaker (1946)

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Best Review
***

Note: An official death?

When a powerful government official scheduled to speak to a group of millionaires turns up dead, the business world clamors for a solution, and Nero Wolfe takes the case.

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too many womenToo Many Women (1947)

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Best Review
****

Note: Murder on Wall Street!

Archie, Nero Wolfe’s assistant, goes undercover to investigate a murder at a Wall Street firm, where he discovers a fringe benefit: hundreds of women work there. Everyone’s alibi is air-tight, so Archie and Wolfe set a trap. Which woman will fall into it?

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be a villainAnd Be a Villain (1948)

AKA: More Deaths Than One (UK)

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Best Review
****

Note: A deadly ad?

Radio talk show host Madeline Fraser’s worst nightmare comes true when one of her on-air guests collapses at the mike after drinking a glass of the sponsor’s beverage.

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trouble triplicateTrouble in Triplicate (1949)

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Best Review
****

Note: Contains Before I Die, Help Wanted, Male and Instead of Evidence

A repackaged Nero Wolfe mystery – the perfect companion for anyone who savors a good murder served up with true flair. Features an introduction by noted writer Randy Russell and never-before-published memorabilia from the life of Rex Stout.

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second confessionThe Second Confession (1949)

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Best Review
****

Note: Murderous debutantes!

When a millionaire businessman hires the sedentary detective to snoop on his daughter’s boyfriend, Wolfe finds himself caught in a labyrinthine case involving drugged drinks, murderous debutantes, and a gangland boss.

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three doorsThree Doors to Death (1950)

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Best Review
****

Note: Contains Man Alive, Omit Flowers and Door to Death

Three cases bring perplexing challenges to Nero Wolfe, as a man unsuccessfully attempts suicide just before he is killed, a murder victim’s family hides the identity of the killer, and a horticulturist discovers his girlfriend’s body.

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best familiesIn the Best Families (1950)
AKA: Even in the Best Families (UK)

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Best Review
****

Note: Too much money?

Aging millionairess Mrs. Rackham asks Nero Wolfe to find out where her penniless husband has suddenly been obtaining mysteriously large sums of money, a request that leads to murder and to threats against the master detective himself.

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curtains threeCurtains for Three (1951)

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Best Review
****

Note: Contains The Gun with Wings, Bullet for One and Disguise for Murder

Three clever murderers challenge Nero Wolfe in cases involving lovers who want to make sure neither is a killer, a stable full of suspects in the search for a killer on horseback, and a murderer stalking Wolfe’s brownstone.

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murder book RSMurder by the Book (1951)

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Best Review
****

Note: A deadly read?

When everyone who has read Leonard Dykes’s unpublished manuscript – including the author himself – is found dead, Nero Wolfe, along with his sidekick, decides to set a trap.

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triple jeopardyTriple Jeopardy (1952)

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Best Review
****

Note: Contains Home to Roost, The Cop-Killer and The Squirt and the Monkey

Nero Wolfe applies his detection skills to crack the case of a poisoned health nut, the death of a policeman in a barber shop, and a comic killer who makes a joke out of murder. 

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prisoners basePrisoner’s Base (1952)
AKA: Out Goes She (UK)

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Best Review
****

Note: A murdered client!

Hours after Priscilla Eads pleads with him to take her case, Nero Wolfe is shocked to find out that she was murdered, and soon he is investigating her fortune-hunting husband and her greedy business associates.

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golden spidersThe Golden Spiders (1953)

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Best Review
****

Note: Two more murdered clients!

Trying to determine why his last two clients were ruthlessly murdered, Nero Wolfe wonders if the answer is linked to a young boy who turns up at his brownstone apartment and finds clues in a gray Cadillac, a mysterious woman, and spider-shaped earrings.

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three men outThree Men Out (1954)

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Best Review
****

Note: Contains Invitation to Murder, The Zero Clue and This Won’t Kill You

Nero Wolfe and sidekick Archie Goodwin attempt to solve three puzzling cases of murder: in one, a person’s questions lead to his death; another finds a man killed in a soundproof office; and in the last, a baseball rookie is removed from the lineup through murder.

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black mountainThe Black Mountain (1954)

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Best Review
****

Note: A vengeful visit to Montenegro!

Vowing to avenge the murder of his dear friend, Marko Vukcic, Nero Wolfe, along with his faithful partner, Archie Goodwin, journey to the hazardous mountains of Montenegro

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before midnightBefore Midnight (1955)

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Best Review
***

Note: Wolfe follows the scent?

Cheaters never prosper, but Nero Wolfe encounters one who kills trying. At the Pour Amour perfume riddle contest, a million dollars goes to the contestant who can answer five questions. Someone doesn’t like the heat of competition, so he murders the contest founder and steals the answers to the riddles. Now Wolfe has to sniff down a trail of clues that leads disturbingly close to home.

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three witnessesThree Witnesses (1956)

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Best Review
****

Note: Contains The Next Witness, When a Man Murders and Die Like a Dog

In three cases – a millionaire who writes his own death warrant, a dog who becomes a killer’s worst enemy, and an answering service which refuses to talk about a murder – three witnesses hold the solution for detective Rex Stout.

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well be deadMight as Well Be Dead (1956)

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Best Review
****

Note: Too late to make amends?

Eleven years ago, wealthy Nebraska businessman James Herrold unjustly threw his only son, Paul, out of the family business. Now he wants Nero Wolfe to find Paul so he can make amends. But what if the young man doesn’t want to be found? And what if he’s the same Paul Herrold on trial for murder? This case draws the great detective and his devoted sidekick into a web of deceit, one that even the master sleuth may regret taking on.

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three chairThree for the Chair (1957)

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Best Review
****

Note: Contains A Window for Death, Immune to Murder and Too Many Detectives

One thing is certain to distract Nero Wolfe from his culinary and horticultural pursuits: murder. This time Wolfe and his able assistant, Archie Goodwin, are put in the hot seat when they are called upon to investigate three different murders.

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death ever sleptIf Death Ever Slept (1957)

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Best Review
****

Note: An inside job?

With a personal fortune of over 30 million dollars, Otis Jarrell’s credit rating gave him access to the world’s costliest – and fattest – private detective. He needed Wolfe’s expertise to identify the snake within his business empire who was sabotaging his deals.

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four to goAnd Four to Go (1958)

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Best Review
****

Note: Contains Christmas Party, Easter Parade, Fourth of July Picnic and Murder Is No Joke

Nero Wolfe must track down a killer who murders his victims only during holidays and who, so far, has left Wolfe with four puzzling cases to unravel.

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champagne oneChampagne for One (1958)

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Best Review
****

Note: A toast to death?

Faith Usher talked about taking her own life and even kept cyanide in her purse. So when she died from a lethal champagne cocktail in the middle of a high society dinner party, everyone called it suicide -including the police. But Nero Wolfe isn’t convinced – and neither is Archie. Especially when Wolfe is warned by four men against taking the case. Deception, blackmail, and a killer who may have pulled off the perfect crime – it’ s a challenge Nero Wolfe can’t resist.

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plot yourselfPlot It Yourself (1959)
AKA: Murder in Style (UK)

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Best Review
****

Note: A well plotted death?

Nero Wolfe and his sidekick, Archie Goodwin, are called in by a consortium of publishers and writers to investigate several cases of false plagiarism, but the probe soon becomes complicated by murder.

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wolfe's doorThree at Wolfe’s Door (1960)

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Best Review
****

Note: Contains Poison à la Carte, Method Three for Murder and The Rodeo Murder

A lawyer is entangled in a complex case involving environmentalists, Big Oil, and a daunting ethical dilemma.

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too many clientsToo Many Clients (1960)

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Best Review
****

Note: An uncomfortable death?

A bidding war for his services interrupts Nero Wolfe’s attempts to solve the case of a businessman who died in his love nest – a case in which the police seem oddly uninterested.

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final deductionThe Final Deduction (1961)

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Best Review
****

Note: Murder in Manhattan!

When the seemingly safe return of an abducted millionaire ends in his murder in his own home, Nero Wolfe sends Archie Goodwin to do his usual legwork, while Wolfe uncovers corruption and greed among Manhattan’s elite.

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homicide trinityHomicide Trinity (1962)

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Best Review
****

Note: Contains Eeny Meeny Murder Mo, Death of a Demon and Counterfeit for Murder

Nero Wolfe attempts to find the killer who murdered his victim with Wolfe’s own necktie, and he encounters a list of bizarre suspects, including a gun-toting wife and a cop-hating landlady.

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gambit RSGambit (1962)

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Best Review
****

Note: Checkmate?

A private club is the setting for murder when Paul Jerim, playing chess with twelve opponents, is poisoned. When her father is accused of the murder, beautiful Sally Blount calls on gourmet detective Nero Wolfe to find the real killer.

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mother huntThe Mother Hunt (1963)

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Best Review
****

Note: Whose baby?

It’s a matter of maternity that brings Lucy Valdon to the brownstone on West 35th, after a baby is left on her doorstep.

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trio for bluntTrio for Blunt Instruments (1963)

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Best Review
****

Note: Contains Kill Now – Pay Later, Murder Is Corny and Blood Will Tell

If Nero Wolfe and his sidekick, Archie, would ever admit to an Achilles’ heel – which they wouldn’t – it would be a weakness for damsels in distress. In these three charming chillers the duo answer the call of helpless heroines with nothing to lose – except their lives. First a beautiful young Aphrodite comes to Nero looking for a hero and the answer to the mystery of her father’s death. Then an old flame of Archie’s reignites with a plan that may corner him into a lifetime commitment – behind bars. And finally a detective’s work is never done, as a hot tip leads the team into the sizzling center of a sexy scandal that could leave them cold – dead cold.

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right to dieA Right to Die (1964)

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Best Review
****

Note: Dead or wed?

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.

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doorbell rangThe Doorbell Rang (1965)

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Best Review
****

Note: Wolfe takes on The Feds!

Hired to help society widow Rachel Bruner foil bothersome Feds, Nero Wolfe and his able assistant Archie get in over their heads with highly trained G-men who are adept at bugs, tails, and threats.

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death doxyDeath of a Doxy (1966)

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Best Review
****

Note: A cold blooded lady killer!

When an old acquaintance and fellow P.I. is accused of murdering a kept woman, Nero Wolfe investigates and finds several suspects in a mystery blackmailer, a sexy lounge singer, and a cold blooded lady killer.

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father huntThe Father Hunt (1968)

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Best Review
****

Note: Lost or on the run?

Hired to locate Amy Denovo’s long-lost father, Nero Wolfe and his assistant, Archie Goodwin, discover that the missing man has a deadly and dangerous secret to hide.

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death dudeDeath of a Dude (1969)

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Best Review
****

Note: A trip to Montana!

Sedentary sleuth Nero Wolfe and his sidekick, Archie Goodwin, leave West Thirty-fifth Street for a Montana dude ranch to clear an innocent man of a murder charge.

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pass guiltPlease Pass the Guilt (1973)

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Best Review
****

Note: A death trap!

A bomb explodes in the desk drawer of a top TV executive. But was the death trap intended for him or for the man who opened the drawer? Each man had a host of enemies, so was it the ambitious business partner, the jealous wife, the office secretary, or the man with blood on his hands? Nero Wolfe finds himself up to his corpulent neck as he and Archie Goodwin sort their way through secrets, over-the-top ambition, and a long list of suspects to find the truth and the guilty party.

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family affairA Family Affair (1975)

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Best Review
****

Note: Nero Wolfe’s swan song!

Published only a month before Rex Stout’s death, this case is regarded as one of the author’s truest. When Nero Wolfe’s favorite waiter is murdered in an explosion just feet from him, the detective takes it as a personal affront and waives his trademark fee. As Wolfe and his sidekick Archie track down the culprit, a second murder is committed and Wolfe realizes that this case is a family affair.

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death x threeDeath Times Three (1985)

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Best Review
****

Note: Posthumous: Bitter End, Frame-Up for Murder and Assault on a Brownstone

Archie Goodwin has his hands full when three baffling murders make him the recipient of a poisonous lunch, the fall guy for a beautiful woman, and the target of the U.S. Federal Government. Reissue.

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