Mystery Lover...but overall a very eclectic reader. Will read everything from the classics to historical fiction. Biography to essays. Not into horror or much into YA. If you would like me to review a book, then please see my stated review policy BEFORE emailing me. Please Note: This is a book blog. It is not a platform for advertising. Please do NOT contact me to ask that I promote your NON-book websites or products. Thank you.
This review of the Final Deduction by Rex Stout may be a bit sketchy. I listened to this one as a book on CD during my road trip this past weekend and I've mentioned before how much harder it is for me to do a full review when I listen. I just sit back and enjoy the performance. Speaking of...Michael Prichard does an excellent job bringing Nero Wolfe and, especially, Archie Goodwin to life.
The story opens with Archie losing a little bet with himself. Althea Vail, wealthy, society lady, arrives at the old brownstone with no appointment and asks to see Nero Wolfe--preferring not to tell Archie what about, but to tell Wolfe himself. Archie is convinced she's come to ask the world's best brain to ask him to tail her most current husband--that's what so often happens when an older woman (with money) marries a younger man (without). But Archie is wrong. Mrs. Vail has come because her husband, Jimmy Vail, disappeared over the weekend and she has received a ransom note. She doesn't want Wolfe to investigate the kidnappers or try to find her husband. What she wants is for him to ensure that her husband is returned, alive and unharmed, once she pays the ransom.
She refuses to share much detail with Wolfe--having been told by "Mr. Nap" that she and her Jimmy would regret it if she talked to anyone--so, the great detective has few options. He decides to place an ad in The Gazette where Lon Cohen owes him favors (and any other papers who can make it happen before the ransom must be delivered):
If her property is not returned to her, or if it is damaged beyond repair, I have engaged to devote my time, energy, and talent, for as long as may be required, to ensure just and fitting requital; and she has determined to support me to the full extent of her resources. If you do not know enough of me to be aware of the significance of this engagement to your future, I advise you to inform yourself regarding my competence and my tenacity.
He also makes it clear that Mrs. Vail has not revealed any details in an effort to save Jimmy's life and then they all settle down to see what happens. Vail miraculously returns--tired, but safe and sound with instructions not to go to the authorities for 48 hours. It looks like Wolfe has earned a hefty fee ($60,000) for very little work. But that same day, the body of Mrs. Vail's secretary is found--run over by her own car--in the same location where the handover of the ransom money took place. Then Jimmy Vail is found dead in his own library, apparently killed by Benjamin Franklin. That is to say...a heavy bronze statue of the historical statesman (whose base was unsteady) toppled over and killed him in what seems to be an accident.
When Mrs. Vail's son comes to Wolfe wanting to hire him to find the ransom money (his mother has promised him the cash if he can locate it), the genius, satisfied with his recent fee, plans to turn him down. But Archie, true to form, goads his boss into action by threatening to take some of his leave time to do the legwork on his own and snag the hefty commission for himself. Wolfe can't do without Archie and takes the case--of course, he can't get involved with out solving the other crimes as well and it takes a rather ingenious "final deduction" to collar the criminal.
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this on my six-hour (round-trip) journey to and from my parents' house this past weekend. It was absorbing and interesting. And, despite guessing half the solution, I'm giving it ★★★★ for the entertaining reading/performance and the final twist that Stout gives the case.