Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Fer-de-lance. A Nero Wolfe Mystery. Rex Stout. 1934/1997. Random House. 304 pages.

There was no reason why I shouldn't have been sent for the beer that day, for the last ends of the Fairmont National Bank case had been gathered in the week before and there was nothing for me to do but errands, and Wolfe never hesitated about me running down to Murray Street for a can of shoe polish if he happened to need one. But it was Fritz who was sent for the beer.  

Fer-de-lance is the first Nero Wolfe mystery. It introduces readers to two private detectives, Nero Wolfe, and Archie Goodwin. I'm tempted to add in two of the BEST DETECTIVES in the world. But, I suppose that's just my opinion!

In Fer-de-lance, Fred Durkin introduces a woman to Nero Wolfe, Maria Maffei. This woman is worried about her brother, Carlo Maffei, who has gone missing. Archie Goodwin is sent to investigate. First he interviews those in the boarding house where Carlo lived--those that overheard Carlo's phone conversation; he then looks at Carlo's room, goes through his room looking for clues. He learns from Miss Anna Fiore that Carlo often gave her his newspaper after he was finished with it. The newspaper she got that Monday afternoon had a big hole in it--an entire article had been cut out. Nero Wolfe wants to know what article it was Carlo took such an interest in. After discovering the article was about the death of a golfer, Peter Oliver Barstow, he becomes interested in that death. Soon after Carlo Maffei is no longer missing at all--his body has been found. Though there is no obvious reason to link the two deaths together, to investigate them at the same time--especially since Barstow's death has been accepted as natural--Wolfe is convinced that the two are related. That Barstow was murdered. That his body should be exhumed and tested for poison. He's convinced that finding the murderer of one will lead him to solving the other murder. Who killed Peter Oliver Barstow? Was it poison? Who had motive and opportunity? And did Carlo know it was murder? Did Carlo know who killed Mr. Barstow? Is that how he ended up dead?

So Archie and Nero have plenty of work to do, plenty of clues to follow!

I enjoyed Fer-de-lance. It was fun to read the first mystery in this series. Archie and Nero are great fun in this one. Their dialogue still satisfies me. It's just so delightful to spend time with these two!

Nero Wolfe:

"A pessimist gets nothing but pleasant surprises, an optimist nothing but unpleasant." (3)

Nero Wolfe:

"Some day, Archie, when I decide you are no longer worth tolerating, you will have to marry a woman of very modest mental capacity to get an appropriate audience for your wretched sarcasms." (54)

Nero Wolfe:

"People often find it difficult to think in my presence, I do not leave enough space." (96)

Archie Goodwin:

"Everything that the doctor could tell me I had read three days earlier in the newspapers except for a bunch of medical terms which the papers hadn't tried to print for fear of a typesetters' strike." (139)

Archie Goodwin:

"You know what my boss says? He says that skepticism is a good watchdog if you know when to take the leash off." (143)

Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin:

"Tell Fritz there will be guests at lunch. What do boys that age eat?"
"They eat everything."
"Tell Fritz to have that." (165)

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Alexis @ Reflections of a Bookaholic said...

Love the quotes that you shared. Fab review!

Nook on Sale said...

I absolutely love the Nero Wolfe series! Fer-de-lance is a great book, and I've read it several times. Yet another ending that I didn't see coming.

The A&E Nero Wolfe mysteries are a lot of fun to watch. Not sure if they made Fer-de-lance into an episode.