Thursday, June 27, 2019

The Father Hunt

The  Father Hunt (1968) by Rex Stout

Amy Denovo wants Archie to find her father for her. She grew up without a father and her mother stifled any attempts at asking questions about him. She didn't really get serious about tracking him down until her mother died in a hit-and-run incident. After the funeral, her mother's boss came to Amy with a box that Elinor had kept in the office safe and the key to the box which was in Elinor's desk. The box is labeled "Property of  Amy Denovo" and the key is labeled "Key to Amy Denovo's box." Inside is 240,000 dollars and a letter that explains that the money has come from Amy's father.

As fast as Archie and Wolfe's three other leg men, Saul Panzer, Fred Durkin, and Orrie Cather, dig up leads, they find themselves running into dead ends. After interviewing several men who might have been the father (but apparently aren't), Wolfe decides that the best way to find out about Elinor Denovo's past life may be to investigate her death. But Amy may not care for the results of her father hunt after all...

This is one of the few Stout stories where Wolfe does not gather all the suspects into a room and spring surprises on them until someone makes a mistake and confirms his theory of the crime. He does have a final show-down of sorts in his office--but it's not with the ultimate suspect (though that person does visit and answer questions). It's with the man who made the payments to Elinor Denovo. And he's not Amy's father. But he is important to the whole set-up. How? Well...that would be telling and I don't want to ruin the ending for you.

An enjoyable outing and one in which just about every regular and semi-regular character in the Stout pantheon has a moment--all three leg men take part in the investigation, Cramer and Sgt. Purley Stebbins show up and do their annoy Archie and Wolfe routine, Lily Rowan is in and out of the story, and there are glimpses of Fritz and Theodore as well as Lon Cohen and Nathaniel Parker. It's practically "old home week" at the brownstone. It was nice to see simple detective legwork do the job and Wolfe's genius moments get placed on the back burner. Not that I don't appreciate the stories where Wolfe sits and thinks and puffs his lips in and out until he gets an idea. Those are nice too. But Archie and Saul get the goods this time and all Wolfe has to do is talk to him long enough for the man to touch enough objects in the room that a fingerprint or two can be compared with the driver of the hit-and-run vehicle....A tidy little mystery. ★★ and a half.

[Finished on 6/18/19]

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