Friday, November 23, 2012

The Father Hunt, by Rex Stout


Amy Denovo wants to find her father. The trouble is, she doesn't know who he is, what he does, or where he lives. All she knows is that her mother received checks for $1000 every month from Amy's birth until her mother's death in a hit and run accident a few months back. But was it really an accident? Wolfe and Archie chase lead after lead in an attempt to track down the long-lost father, determined to find an answer. Whether Amy likes the answer she gets ... well, that remains to be seen.

The story itself is nothing terribly remarkable, for all the false starts and dead ends the detectives encounter. At first, it seems that finding the father will be as easy as tracking the source of the checks. When that fizzles out, they try to figure out Amy's mother's real name, but even that leads nowhere. The investigation is finally jump-started when Wolfe decides, rather arbitrarily, that Amy's father murdered her mother. His reasoning? A murderer is easier to find than a father, especially since any fathering took place more than 20 years ago, whereas the death of Amy's mother was much more recent. Obviously.

Amy Denovo is a rather lackluster individual--nothing near as interesting as Lucy Valdon in the superior The Mother Hunt. The other characters, with the exception of the amusing Eugene Jarrett and the clever Dorothy Sebor, are likewise uninspiring. Fortunately, we get some face time with the lovely and capricious Lily Rowan, who has hired Miss Denovo to help her assemble information for a book about her father (Miss Rowan's father, not Miss Denovo's), thereby putting her in Archie's path and opening the door for Miss Denovo to hire our favorite fatty to track down her father. Saul Panzer, Fred Durkin, and Orrie Cather all make appearances, as does Avery Ballou, whom Wolfe extricated from a nasty mess in Death of a Doxy.

All in all, it's a decentish book, if not Stout's best work, and Prichard's narration is nobbut middlin'.

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