Fer-de-Lance is Rex Stout's first Nero Wolfe mystery and everything it is cracked up to be. I am torn between being appalled at myself for not reading the entire series earlier and giddy that I have the whole series to look forward to.
This first mystery introduces the portly genius and establishes him as an orchard-growing, beer-drinking eccentric who stays inside his New York brownstone while his intrepid sidekick, Archie Goodwin, does the legwork. Stout creates intriguing context for the duo with several references to prior cases and earlier fame.
In this case, Wolfe is asked to find a missing Italian immigrant and ends up solving the murder of a golf-playing college president. Throughout, Wolfe's somewhat pompous self-aggrandizement is balanced by Goodwin's wise-cracking narration. The book is funny and clever and the plot itself is even pretty good, in a vintage, 1934 kind of way.
I am looking forward to the other 46 Nero Wolfe novels. I see another list coming on . . .
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