Sunday, March 23, 2014

The League of Frightened Men: Review

The League of Frightened Gentlemen (1935) is the second of Rex Stout's books featuring the detective duo of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. Stout's team--made up of the gargantuan genius Wolfe and his street smart legman Goodwin--always provide good entertainment even early in the series.

Here we have a group of frightened men who are certain that their college friend, Paul Chapin, is set on a path of revenge for a crippling injury he suffered at their hands during a hazing incident. Two of their number have already died and each of them received a poetic message following the deaths. Messages in which Chapin seems to be claiming responsibility for the deaths and which tell the group that they should have killed him when they had the chance. A third member of the group, Andrew Hibbard, approaches Nero Wolfe and asks him to keep Chapin from murdering him--but he doesn't want the man turned over to the police. Wolfe tells him that he can't help him under those conditions.

Not too long after, Hibbard disappears and another note is delivered saying that Chapin has killed him as well. Hibbard's niece comes to Wolfe with more information about the league of men, but he also tells her that he can be of no help--abstracting a list of the men involved from her materials before she leaves. His plan is to approach the group and promise to remove any threat from Paul Chapin, discover who (if anybody) really killed the first two men, and prove what happened to Hibbard. Anyone who knows Wolfe knows that he'll fulfill his promise (and collect his huge fee in the bargain).

This is going to be a short review--I listened to this one on my way back home for a family get-together. While I enjoy listening to books on tape occasionally (especially on long drives), I find it more difficult to review them. I just sit back and enjoy the show, so to speak, and don't really concentrate on the details. Let me start by saying that Saul Rubinek, who is the reader for this particular version, does an excellent job. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to him and he was excellent in the male parts. Fortunately, there weren't many female speakers--because he had one voice for all of them. 

The story itself was a good one--entertaining, finely drawn characters, a nice twist ending, and worth the price of admission just to listen to (or read) the scene where Archie is drugged and then tries to fight his way out of the stupor. Four stars

This fulfills the Detective "Team" square on the Golden Vintage Bingo card.


Man of la Book said...

Great review, sounds like a book which stood the test of time.

fredamans said...

I have noticed my attention span is less imaginative while reading/listening to audiobooks. I always seem to lose a bit of luster in the story.
Great review!

Gram said...

I read this years ago and also enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

This is very much one of the best of the Wolfe books from the 1930s in my view - nice that they got Saul Rubinek to do the audio book as he was on the great TV version of course starring Tim Hutton.

Yvette said...

Bev this is one Nero Wolfe book that, I think, improves on re-reading. My first reaction years ago was that I didn't like it much. But I've come to appreciate it more and more as time has passed and I've reread it a couple more times. That thwarted marriage is one for the books - huh?

I love audio books but I often have trouble finding the time to sit and just listen since I don't travel much these days. But I find a way. :) I just listen at my computer when I have a moment or two or when I'm working or doing housework. Admittedly though, it's best in a car.

Anonymous said...

I agree that this is one of the best early Wolfe books. I think Paul Chapin is one of the most interesting (and best developed) characters in any of the Wolfe books. I can't say more than that without running into possible spoiler territory, but I think your review presents the book very well.