Monday, December 28, 2015

Three Doors to Death: Review

Rex Stout's Three Doors to Death is a Nero Wolfe threesome--a collection of three short stories/novellas featuring that armchair detective genius Wolfe and his confidential assistant, secretary, and general Man Friday Archie Goodwin. Regular characters such as Fritz Brenner, Saul Panzer, Inspector Cramer, and Purley Stebbins also make their appearances and the stories run fairly true to the Stout formula. But it is such a successful formula--time after time, Wolfe has Archie gather the suspects for interrogation and comes through at the end with the culprit. These are so well-written that it works every time.

In "Man Alive" Paul Daumery was a successful designer preparing for the Fall fashion shows until the family received word that he had committed suicide. His niece Cynthia doesn't believe it--and Archie is prepared to talk his boss into taking on another case where they have to prove murder when suicide has been accepted. Except that isn't what Cynthia means. She doesn't believe it because she's certain she saw her uncle at last week's show. In disguise--but she's sure it was him and she wants Wolfe to find him. Paul Damery will be found all right. But he won't be alive. And it really is murder. Now Wolfe has to prove to Cramer that his client didn't do it.

"Omit Flowers" is almost more Archie's story than Wolfe's. When Wolfe's friend Marko Vukcic asks him to prove that another chef (Marko's mentor) is innocent of murder, Archie must use his brains and observational skills to find a wedge that will open up the Whitten/Landry clan for investigation. If Virgil Pompa didn't murder Floyd Whitten, then one of that clan did. With the wedge Archie provides, Wolfe is able to bring the crime home to the appropriate villain.

"Door to Death" sees Nero Wolfe making one of his rare excursions away from the brownstone. This time he is in search of a substitute for his absent gardener Theodore. Theodore has been called away to his sick mother and the poor orchids are in need of expert care. Archie and his boss make for the wilds of north Westchester to steal Andy Krasicki from Joseph Pitcairn's greenhouse. But before they can make their get-away, a dead woman is found among the plants and Andy is the prime suspect. Wolfe shows just what he's willing to give up in order to prove Andy innocent and have someone competent caring for his plants. He misses both lunch and dinner at home, treks cross-country, not once, but twice, and falls down repeatedly in the snow and mud. Oh...and he traps a killer as well.

An excellent collection of short stories. ★★★★

1 comment:

fredamans said...

Now this one is familiar to me. I do believe it is one I read as a kid in my grandfather's rec room. He had so many of these but this one I remember. Great review, brings back memories!