Friday, January 21, 2011

Black Orchids: Review

So, I finally found out how Nero Wolfe gained possession of the coveted black orchids. This had been alluded to in several of the Wolfe mysteries that I have read but I hadn't gotten my hands on a copy of Black Orchids (1941) until this past year.

Nero Wolfe sends Archie Goodwin to the flower show in downtown NYC. Not once, but every day for a whole week. Finally, Wolfe cannot stand it any longer and rather than hear Goodwin's reports on how they look he actually leaves his brownstone home to see for himself. Faithful readers of the Wolfe novels will know what a rare event this is. While they are at the show...Wolfe gazing longingly at the orchids and Goodwin gazing longingly at a lovely young woman who has been part of a garden scene at the show each day...a man is murdered. In full view of all the flower lovers.

When Inspector Cramer finds out that Wolfe and Goodwin were on the scene, he naturally assumes that Wolfe was on a case and knows more than he does. It doesn't take Wolfe long to provide himself with all the facts and he winds the case up in what seems to be record time. This time the wrap-up takes place in the famous Wolfe orchid rooms and as payment for a closed case Wolfe is able to call the black orchids his own.

All of the standard Wolfe mystery ingredients are present and accounted for. Archie finds a lovely lady to fall in and out of love with; he gets to be irritated with Wolfe for turning down a case (before actually investigating the murder); and he gets to subject Cramer and Purley Stebbins to his sterling wit. We even get a little bit of Saul Panzer. The murder method is interesting and the little twist Stout gives to who actually did the deed makes it even more so. A good entry in the Nero Wolfe collection. Four stars.


Birdie said...

Oh, I quite liked this one! I read it while I was in CA a few summers ago. I read a bunch of Nero Wolfe novels that summer. Good times.

I think there is an old radio production of this one too, just for giggles.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it fun to "fill in a hole" when you're reading a book series. I still have one hole with the Wolfe books. I swear he mentions the time that he didn't follow a departing guest to the front door and later found that the guest had faked his exit and was eavesdropping on our duo. But I don't think Archie ever wrote up the case where that happened. Maybe it never turned into a real case.