Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Red Box: Review

The Red Box starts out with a trick. Nero Wolfe is manipulated into leaving the comforts of his brownstone when Llewellyn Frost presents him with a letter from several of his esteemed colleagues in the orchid-growing world imploring the detective to leave his office, leave his faithful staff, leave his orchid-filled greenhouse and travel twenty blocks (eight minutes) to the office of Boyden McNair Incorporated to investigate the poisoning of a beautiful young model. Frost had tried to get Wolfe involved as soon as the death occurred, but the great man would not leave home and none of the suspects and witnesses would visit the brownstone. 

It's now a week later and Inspector Cramer and all the policemen at his command have made no progress. So, Frost returns with the letter and manages to get Wolfe to do the unthinkable. He and Archie Goodwin go to the office the next day and begin questioning those involved. But they too make very little headway. On the way out of the building, they see Purley Stebbins of the Homicide Squad.

He stopped and stared, not at me, at Wolfe. "In the name of God. Did you shoot him out of cannon?"

Few of the suspects--from the young woman's friend Helen Frost and the rest of the Frost family to Boyd McNair, fashion designer and employer of the model--want to talk to Wolfe beyond the bare facts. The model, Molly Lauck, snitched a box of chocolates. She ate two and died from cyanide poisoning. Readers might think that the box of chocolates is the red box in question--particularly if their cover looks like mine. But Wolfe's investigations soon reveal that there is a much more important red box yet to be found. All of Cramer's resources and Wolfe's band of investigators--Saul Panzer, Fred Durkin, and Orrie Cather--are called upon to find it. But will it turn up in time to solve a murder?

There is another infuriating (to Wolfe) installment yet to come...he has determined that the poisoned chocolates were really intended for someone other than Miss Lauck when the proposed victim is successfully murdered right before his eyes in his very own office. Wolfe also suspects who the culprit is, but even having witnessed this death himself, there is no proof. He will need Cramer's help to pull off a most audacious confrontation scene...and Cramer, for once, gives his assistance with no complaint. Well...almost no complaint. He wouldn't be Cramer if he didn't fuss just a bit.

All the components for a delightful Wolfe and Goodwin mystery are in place. Wolfe is prodded into taking on a case and Archie is in good form goading his boss and tossing off witty wisecracks. Saul Panzer and the boys see a little action, Cramer chews through a cigar or two, and a hapless assistant D.A. blusters and threatens to take away Wolfe's license. There's even a brave young heroine to root for. ★★

This counts for the "Read by a Fellow Challenger" square  and completes my Golden Vintage Bingo card. You will find the book reviewed earlier this year by Les Blatt, one of my faithful challengers, over at his excellent blog Classic Mysteries. Be sure to stop in and tell Les I said "Hi."

1 comment:

fredamans said...

The snippet made me laugh out loud. Great review!