Friday, February 14, 2020

Red Threads

Red Threads (1937) by Rex Stout

Millionaire Val Carew is found bludgeoned to death in his wife's tomb. It's a high-profile case that the powers-that-be would like to see wrapped up quickly and neatly. But all the clues that the police find seem to lead nowhere, so the NYPD recall one of their finest, Inspector Cramer, from a well-deserved vacation to take over the case. He manages to uncover a few new clues--including a discarded peach pit, an ancient red thread, and a whippoorwill's call--but with every witness telling lies, it's going to be difficult to pin the murder on any of them.

I'll just tell you upfront: this is not one of Stout's all-time best novels. I think he hit his mark with the combination of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin working in what often seems to be opposition to the official police represented by Inspector Cramer. Red Threads is billed as "an Inspector Cramer mystery"--which I guess it is if only because Nero Wolfe is not here (must be too busy with his orchids). Cramer is an honest, hard-working cop and he does his bulldog best to track down the killer when his superiors drag him back from his first real vacation in years. But it takes clues supplied by fashion designer Jean Farris to get him on the right track.

The biggest failing in this one (in my opinion) is the lack of interesting characters. Even in his worst Wolfe novels, the characters have a bit of interest and force to them. Jean's character starts out nicely but rapidly loses steam about midway--even her fight to find answers that will prove that Guy Carew (the love of her life) didn't kill his father didn't particularly interest me. I would say to skip this one unless you're a Stout completist. ★★

Deaths = One (hit on head)
Calendar of Crime: October (Author DOB)
Vintage Mystery (2011): 1st book towards Murderous Mood level

First Line: Eileen Delaney heard the door of the noisy old elevator close behind her, and the diminuendo of its bang and rattle as its ascent progressed up the shaft.

Last Line: He sang the boastful Cherokee song a little later.

No comments: