This Rex Stout / Nero Wolfe mystery starts out with a quick twist: Archie is hired by a businessman to follow him to a certain address, but the businessman does not show as scheduled. Instead, police are surrounding the address, as the businessman has been found dead in a construction site across the street. However, the corpse in the hole is not the man who talked to Goodwin. There are more twists in this book in the first thirty pages than you see in many books over the course of 300.
The book cannot sustain the twisting over the long haul, though; we discover that the real businessman, who is the dead businessman, had a love nest at the address where a variety of women came to call. One of them might have had a hand in the murder, and Wolfe and Goodwin investigate. It’s stretched a bit to novel length and relies a little bit on deus ex machina of Wolfe cogitating and using detectives other than the first person narrating Goodwin to set up the big finish, but it’s not a bad novel.
It is a little strange, though, that this book came out in 1960, nine years after The Book of the Crime, but Manhattan feels vastly different between them. In this book, it’s relatively modern, and but barring the lack of smart phones and computers, might be modern day. As a reader, I’m fortunate enough to remember those times, so I can relate to fiction written before 1998.
And as a side note, this novel appears in a three-book-omnibus edition of Wolfe stories. Because I’ve just about given up on hitting 100 books this year.
(See also this previous Rex Stout review, The Father Hunt.)