Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Poison at a Party

     Rex Stout. Champagne for One (1958) A friend has asked Archie to sub for him at an annual dinner for unwed mothers, instituted by the late Mr Grantham in conjunction with his founding of a home for them. A poisoned glass of champagne kills one of the girls, Archie immediately sees that it must have been murder, but everyone else thinks it’s suicide. But since Archie repeated his claim to the police, Cramer and Stubbins must investigate it as murder. Wolfe of course wants to figure it out. The murderer and other people interfere in the investigation.
     A nicely done PI story, with Archie in fine form as investigator, and Stout giving him and Wolfe carefully considered lines about the legalities of doing and not doing what others ask them to do. I like these tales not only because of the plots, but also because of the characters. Stout is very good at dropping hints; Archie’s dry wit gives us the angle that reveals character. The ambience is very 1950s. These 60-year-old novels have become historical fiction for us. And of course nostalgia machines for those of us who were alive back then. ***

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