Thursday, September 17, 2015

Some Buried Casear: Review

In Some Buried Caesar Nero Wolfe makes another of his rare trips outside his comfortable brownstone. This time he and Archie Goodwin are headed to a rural exposition north of Manhattan to show Wolfe's prize orchids. On the way the car misbehaves (as Wolfe always suspected it might) and they crash into a tree. Wolfe, Goodwin, and--most importantly--the orchids are undamaged, but they find themselves in need of assistance and set off through an apparently empty field in search of a house with a phone. They haven't gone far before a rather emphatic man with a gun warns them of danger from while accusing them of having evil intentions toward a large, angry bull.

I heard Wolfe's voice, not loud, at the back of my head, "... Do you know the technique of bulls? Did you ever see a bull fight?"
I moved my lips enough to get it out: "No, sir."
Wolfe grunted. "... How fast can you run?"
"I can beat that bull to that fence. ... But you can't."

Archie manages to successfully run from the bull, vault the fence, and cause enough distraction that Wolfe, who is no distance runner nor pole vaulter, can clamber atop a large boulder. Wolfe is then rescued by car by Caroline Pratt, the daughter of the bull's owner, and then Wolfe and Archie are taken to the Pratt home to recover from their ordeal. While enjoying some refreshments and considering their options for making it to the hotel in time to claim their rooms for the night, they also meet Pratt's nephew Jimmy and Lily Rowan, a pretty and world-wise blonde who looks to be more than a match for Archie in the wise-crack department.

There are also some tense moments when members of the Guernsey League show up to protest Pratt's intention to turn the bull into barbecue in an advertising stunt for his restaurant chain. Not that they have anything against barbecue--but that bull just happens to be a champion by the name of Hickory Caesar Grindon and they resent such a fine animal (who should be siring more fine animals) being used for a publicity campaign. Clyde and Nancy Osgood, the children of Pratt's neighbor and long-time rival Frederick, also show up and Clyde says that Pratt's real reason for barbecuing the bull is to somehow dishonor his father. He bets Pratt $10,000 that he will not barbecue Caesar before a week has passed. Pratt reluctantly accepts the bet (after making sure that Frederick Osgood will guarantee payment), but he is concerned that Clyde will do something to the bull in order to win the bet. Wolfe trades Archie's services as a bull-watcher for the comfort of Pratt's home--much preferable to any hotel room in Wolfe's estimation. But things get tricky when Clyde's body is found in the pasture late that night, apparently gored to death by the bull.

Frederick Osgood refuses to believe that his son who knew cattle would have put himself in such a dangerous position. He hires Wolfe to get to the bottom of things, which is good because Wolfe has been convinced it was murder all along. Wolfe just didn't want to get involved and wind up spending any extra time away from the comforts of his own home. But it looks like Wolfe may, for once, be outwitted when the most vital evidence of all goes up in smoke. He'll have to do even quicker thinking than usual to apprehend the murderer...and get Archie released from a jail cell.

True to Stout form the plot is nicely convoluted and the cast of characters are varied and interesting. A fine mystery and it is also notable as the first appearance of Lily Rowan, Archie's long-time girlfriend. The sparks fly between these two right from the start as they trade wise-cracks, Lily alternately gives him looks that "peel him like a potato" and demands that he kiss her, and he gives her fanciful stories of his escapades with crime and the ladies. Lily may not get much mention in future novels, but she shines in this one and it is shame that we don't see more of her throughout the series. Archie's interactions with both his boss and Lily make this a thoroughly enjoyable read. ★★


Anonymous said...

Just love these books and one I really must re-read - I hope its on the shelf - just checked and phew, I have the Bantam reprint from about 20 years ago! Thanks Bev.

fredamans said...

Two men with orchids running from a bull in Northern Manhattan? That alone is interesting.. lol... Sounds like a different read, but in a good way. Great review!