Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Please Pass the Guilt, by Rex Stout


Kenneth Meer has blood on his hands. Not that anyone else can see it, mind you. But he's convinced that it's there all the same. Is he just crazy? Or could there be some actual murder afoot? When Doc Vollmer calls in a favor and asks Wolfe to look into the reason for Meer's delusion, the big man finds himself smack dab in the middle of a murder investigation--and murder by bomb, no less. But therein lies another mystery: the bomb was in the drawer of Amory Browning, a television mogul. But it was another mogul, Frank O'Dell, who opened the drawer and got himself blowed up. Now Wolfe (with an assist from Archie, Saul, Fred, and Orrie) has to solve not one but two mysteries: Who put the bomb in the drawer? And who was the intended victim?

Another passable Nero Wolfe mystery, this time set in 1969 (a bit later than the bulk of Stout's novels). Which means we get to see Archie discussing the chauvinism, etymology, and profanity with a women's libber, Doc Vollmer explaining the merits of psychiatric 'crisis intervention', an interview with an undercover Arab terrorist, and more than a few references to Mets baseball. Fans of the series will particularly appreciate an impromptu round of musical chairs in Wolfe's office, and may even cheer when the obnoxious Lieutenant Rowcliff get his long-awaited comeuppance.

The plot itself is decent enough. There's only the one murder, and, unlike so many other cases, Wolfe is under no time constraint. It's a bit strange to see him taking such a leisurely approach to a murder investigation. The various suspects are a bit lackluster--no real characters in the bunch, unless you count the Widow Odell's obsession with baseball. There's less of the Wolfe-Archie sparkle, and Archie himself isn't at his witty, bantery best. But it's still a fun book, and an easy read. I listened to the audiobook version, and either it's a better production than Before Midnight, or I'm just getting accustomed to Michael Prichard's narration.

Oh, and notable vocabulary words include subreption (obtaining something by concealing pertinent facts) and concupiscence (sexual desire).

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