Friday, June 9, 2023

And Be a Villain

 And Be a Villain
(1948) by Rex Stout; read by Michael Prichard

According to Archie Goodwin, things are looking bleak at Nero Wolfe's brownstone on West 35th Street. The taxman cometh and there's not enough in the coffers to pay him off and still be able to have gourmet meals and orchids. Unless Wolfe wants to stop reading poetry and do some work. Once Archie convinces him that matters really are as dire as stated, Wolfe decides to take advantage of the fact that Inspector Cramer and company have made little headway in the latest spectacular murder case to hit the papers.

Madeline Fraser is the host of a popular radio talk show, so publicity isn't a new thing for her. But she's not used to the kind of publicity that a murder case brings. Someone decided to polish off her latest guest--Cyril Orchard, the publisher of a weekly horse racing sheet called Track Almanac--while the show was on the air. During a break, Fraser and her guests pour and drink Starlite (Hi-Spot in the audio version), one of the sponsors of the show. On this particular occasion, Orchard's portion contains a dose of cyanide and Fraser's listeners now know what it sounds like when someone dies from poison. 

Wolfe offers his services to Miss Fraser--telling her that she's going to get publicity whether she likes it or not and that she might as well have good publicity. It will look a lot better in the papers if she can say that she's willing to hire the best detective in the business to bring justice for Cyril Orchard. Fraser and her sponsors agree that would be a good idea and so Wolfe takes the case. Who wanted Orchard dead and why? How did the cyanide get in the bottle and how did they make sure he got it? And what, if anything, does Orchard's death have to do with the shooting of another publisher of political journal? Once Wolfe can answer those questions, he'll be ready to hand the murderer over to Cramer on a silver platter.

It's always a treat to visit the brownstone where all is in order--beautiful orchids in the rooms above and delicious meals simmering away in the kitchen. Archie needling Wolfe into work and Wolfe trying his best to pretend he doesn't need to. And, of course, Inspector Cramer chomping through cigars in frustration at Wolfe's antics. This was a particularly good visit because I listened to the story as read by Michael Prichard and he does such an admirable job with Archie's voice. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to most of the mystery on my road trip home to my parents' house and back. The radio program setting was good and I really had a good time listening to Archie's method for bringing Nancylee and her mother to see Nero Wolfe. Very clever, Archie. Stout had me fooled on the culprit until just before the big wrap-up scene in Wolfe's office. But I got there just in time. As Wolfe would say, "Satisfactory." ★★★★

First line: For the third time I went over the final addition and subtractions on the first page of Form 1040, to make good and sure.

Last line: "Good God, no. It begins with a Z!"


Deaths = 4 (three poisoned; one shot)

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