Sunday, September 07, 2014

Rex Stout. The League of Frightened Men (1935)

     Rex Stout. The League of Frightened Men (1935) This is a very early Nero Wolfe tale. Stout is still developing the characters. Archie doesn’t yet have a steady woman friend as in later novels, Wolfe is more a collection of tics than a person, the rest of the household are mere animated scenery, and Inspector Cramer is not yet the frequently enraged opponent and rival of Wolfe. The plot is simple enough: a hazing accident leaves one of the freshmen with a bones that heal crookedly, and a permanent grudge against his classmates. Two die, and a threatening letter appears in the remaining men’s letterboxes. They hire Wolfe to remove what they perceive as a threat to their lives. Wolfe delivers, but not before a real murder occurs and one of the group is unmasked as fraud and killer. Good stuff, nicely handled. Many of the later Nero Wolfe tales seem perfunctory by comparison to this one. ***

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