liviapenn: wolfe makes a sad face (wolfe: wolfe is sad :()
[personal profile] liviapenn posting in [community profile] milk_and_orchids
This week's book is "Too Many Women," or, "the one where a little bit of Archie Goodwin's attitude towards women goes a loooong way."



SOME CONTEXT

Honestly, this is one of my less-well-liked Nero Wolfe books. Back in the day in "The Sentinel" fandom there was this thing called the "loft tape," where someone took all the action-adventure and cop stuff out, and all that was left were scenes from the loft where Jim and Blair lived, and they were adorable and domestic and made each other breakfast and argued about who broke the toaster and stuff. I feel like I could live with the "loft tape" version of this book. ^_^

The first handful of Nero Wolfe books have their own weaknesses-- first, they're a lot more Sherlock Holmes-inspired than the later ones-- I think [personal profile] saraht pointed out in one of her reviews, they have a tendency for the heart of a mystery to be "something that happened long ago and far away in a foreign land," which is usually explained in a lengthy flashback/storytelling sequence. And there's also a lot of psychological drama, which almost tends to overshadow the mystery. This one feels like almost a purposeful reversal of that-- like "The Silent Speaker," all the main characters are local middle-class or upper-middle-class New Yorkers with regular jobs, not dukes or debutantes or cowboys, etc.

Also, when we reviewed "Too Many Cooks" and "Some Buried Caesar" some people commented these felt like the first "real" Nero Wolfes, when Nero and Archie hit their stride (and it's interesting in retrospect that these books have two things in common-- they both take place 100% outside of the brownstone and NYC, away from the usual supporting cast of Fritz, Cramer, Saul, Fred, Orrie, etc., *and* they both introduce a supporting character who will reappear in many books after this-- Wolfe's old friend Marko Vukcic in "Too Many Cooks" and Lily Rowan in "Some Buried Caesar.") Both Marko and Lily get a mention in "Too Many Women," but don't actually appear onstage, so to speak.

(Also, maybe someone else can tell me, is this the first book in which Lon Cohen appears? I think I've mentioned before that John McAleer's biography of Rex Stout, he mentions that Stout had gotten some criticism for basically the entire cast being WASPs, and in response he had replaced the previous newspaperman character with Lon Cohen, but I wasn't paying attention and may have missed the switch...)

Anyway, after these early books we get the first novellas, and handful of good-to-great full-length novels-- these also include the wartime stories, which shake up the dynamics in the brownstone a bit. "The Silent Speaker" and "Over My Dead Body" are my personal favorites, and I like "Where There's A Will" and the first half of "Black Orchids".

But I just don't know about "Too Many Women." Again, I feel like it suffers a little by coming right after "The Silent Speaker" -- the comparisons are easy to make, it's Wolfe and Archie vs. a massive corporation with its own tangled internal politics, plus the last act being one long wearying hunt for the One Piece Of Information that will make sense of everything. But to me "The Silent Speaker" is superior in almost every respect-- the supporting cast, the sense of tension and high stakes, the way Archie relates to the lead female character, etc. Unlike some Nero Wolfes, I don't find it hard to remember the entire plot of "TSS," whereas it's been really tough to find things to say about "Too Many Women" because the instant I finish it I sort of forget what happened. Okay, so there was Cecily, and her brother-in-law knew that she murdered her boyfriend... no, that wasn't it... *throws up hands*


THE PLOT

Seriously, though, here is the actual backstory as revealed at the end:

The first murder: Jasper Pine was in love with Hester Livsey. Jasper wanted to divorce his wife Cecily and marry Hester, but she didn't want that, because it would disrupt her life. Cecily convinced Waldo Moore to join Hester's department and seduce her. Unfortunately, when Hester and Waldo fell in love, Jasper Pine was way too obsessed with Hester to just give up, so he murdered Waldo Moore. (Cecily did not expect that to happen, so she maintains that it is not her fault and doesn't feel guilty about it.)

The second murder: Unfortunately, Cecily had confided in her brother Kerr Naylor, and given him some letters that Hester had written to Jasper. Kerr realized that Jasper had murdered Waldo Moore and so he decided to put "Murdered" as cause of death on some paperwork and caused it to be gossipped about in the offices where they all worked. Apparently Jasper wasn't sure at first whether Kerr actually knew that *he* specifically had murdered Waldo. But then when Kerr told Archie that he did actually know who did it, and Jasper found out that Kerr had the letters (or maybe not the letters that Hester had written, but the ones that *Jasper* had written-- I'm not sure about this) he murdered Kerr too.

(There are some parts of this that still don't make complete sense to me, but most of them can be explained away by "People who obsessively murder other people don't always do the logical thing," so okay.)

So basically every other character that you can think of has nothing to do with the actual murder mystery. Rosa "The Curves" Bendini and her jealous punchy husband? Nothing to do with the plot! Gwynne Ferris and all her infuriating face-offs with Archie-- nothing to do with the plot! The whole part where Cecily has tons of boyfriends-- barely anything to do with the plot! The whole secret with Hester Livsey and Sumner Hoff, who basically take up the entire third act with their shenanigans and refusing to give up the Final Clue, and the whole situation where Wolfe and Archie basically set Hester up to be murdered... have nothing to do with the actual plot! Benjamin Frenkel, the gloomy one who has nightmares about being a murderer... total red herring! *flails* (Also, perhaps even more unforgivably, Wolfe and Archie have very little to do with the plot-- besides Archie being the means by which Kerr announces that he knows the murderer's identity, which is pretty incidental.)


THE WOMEN

In terms of important female characters in the book, there's Rosa Bendini, who seems to be all id, and Cecily Naylor Pine, who seems to be all ego. I do love Cecily and I wish there were more of her in the book-- she's just so hilarious and infuriating.

Archie: "You can't bribe or threaten Wolfe!"
Cecil: "But I wasn't threatening him..."
Archie: "I know, I just thought I'd say..."
Cecily: "Oooh, wait, I could totally threaten him!" *threatens Wolfe*
Archie: *facepalms*

Then there's Hester Livsey, who is the central bit of the backstory in that she's the one that everyone was in love with and the one that people got murdered over, but I never seem to get a hold on her character. (Honestly, by the end of it, I get her confused with Gwynne half the time.) And then there's Gwynne Ferris, who is sort of a second-rate Phoebe Gunther in that she knows important things and absolutely will not be shaken into sharing them with Wolfe and Archie, except that she REALLY doesn't know when she's beaten (when your fingerprints are all over the file, it's time to admit that you touched it!) and it just gets incredibly annoying. I would totally support spreading the rumor that SHE knows who the murderer is, I'm just saying.

But, I can't entirely not like her-- I will always sort of heart Gwynne Ferris if only because she is quick and clever enough to completely discombobulate Archie the first time they meet:

I sat on the corner of her desk and she looked up at me with the clear blue eyes of an angel and a virgin.

I leaned to her. "My name is Peter Truett," I told her, "and I've been hired as a personnel expert. If your section head hasn't told you about me..."

"He has," she said, in a sweet musical voice, a contralto, which is my favorite.

"Then please tell me, have you heard any gossip recently about a man named Moore? Waldo Wilmot Moore? Did you know him when he worked here?"

She shook her head. "I'm awfully sorry," she said, sweeter than before if anything, "but I only started here day before yesterday, and I'm leaving on Friday. Just because I can't spell! I never could spell." Her lovely fingers were resting on my knee and her eyes were going straight to my heart. "Mr. Truman, do you know of any job where you don't have to spell?"

I forget exactly how I got away.


Hee hee hee.


THE PLOT AGAIN (SERIOUSLY WHERE IS IT)

But, again, looking too closely at Gwynne Ferris shows the problem with the way this book is structured. When Archie first meets her and she claims she can't spell, that's at the end of chapter 6. We don't hear the actual *name* Gwynne Ferris until chapter 12, when Rosa Bendini gossips about her over dinner. And you would think Archie would want to track her down right away! But somehow he fails to have a meeting with her for FIVE MORE CHAPTERS-- she finally walks into his office at the end of CHAPTER SEVENTEEN, and then she basically stonewalls both Wolfe and Archie until the very end of the book, and it's SO INFURIATING.

I've said before that I like how there are characters in the Wolfe books who can't be bullied, and must be bargained or reasoned with (or in a worst case scenario, tricked) before they give up their plot-advancing knowledge, but this is really pushing it. There is really not enough plot here, is what I'm saying. (Oh, and on a re-read, there is ALSO the shameless "Kerr Naylor came to the door on Friday night and wanted to talk to Archie but he was out and Fritz FORGOT to tell either Wolfe or Archie about it until Cramer came by," which is only there to drag out the plot for another day or two and also to let Cramer badger Wolfe about being a liar and get in a state of mistrusting him.)


WOLFE AND ARCHIE

Okay, so, enough about the plot, let's look at Wolfe and Archie. There's a very short Chapter 1 at the beginning of this book, and it's seemingly all about Wolfe and Archie's relationship: It was the same old rigmarole. Sometimes I found it amusing; sometimes it only bored me; sometimes it gave me a pronounced pain, especially when I had had more of Wolfe than was good for either of us. This time it was fairly funny at first, but it developed along regrettable lines. Which is intriguing, but again, it takes four chapters to get back to it. Apparently everyone in the household is bickering with someone else for some reason. Between Wolfe and Archie: Archie wants a new car, but Wolfe wants to wait until next year, and Wolfe wants to buy Archie a noiseless electric typewriter, but Archie likes the one he has. Again, there's *so much* filler in this book, we don't get back to the typewriter issue until chapter *nineteen*--

"Archie. If I need to tell you, I do, that I have unqualified confidence in you and am completely satisfied with your performance in this case, as I have been in all past cases and expect to be in all future ones. Of course you tell lies and so do I, even to clients when it seems advisable, but you would never lie to me nor I to you in a matter where mutual trust and respect are involved. Your lack of brilliance may be regrettable but is really a triviality, and in any event two brilliant men under one roof would be intolerable. Your senseless peccadilloes, such as your refusal to use a noiseless typewriter, are a confounded nuisance, but this idiotic accusation that you lied in that report to Mr. Pine has put me in a different frame of mind about it. Keep your typewriter, but for heaven's sake oil it."

"Good God," I protested, "I oil it every--"

Cramer exploded with a word which the printer would not approve of. "Your goddam household squabbles will keep," he said rudely. He was at me. "Do you stick to it that Naylor told you he knew who killed Moore?"


There is a lot going on here and it's all ADORABLE. But I feel like it's slightly cheating to just *tell* us about it the typewriter conflict in Chapter 1 as something that's currently going on, and not *show* it, and then just have Wolfe give Archie a little bit of a hard time after his fight with Rosa Bendini's husband, and then the next time the typewriter argument comes up, it's completely resolved. So there's not even really a lot of Wolfe-and-Archie tension in the book either.


I GIVE UP, I'M JUST GONNA QUOTE SOME CUTE BITS

The door to the hall came open and Rosa Bendini was there among us.

It was a fairly embarrassing situation, with Wolfe still busy on the phone and the two public servants and me sitting staring at her as she stood just inside the door in that cherry-colored thing which, whatever its name might be, was certainly not intended for street wear. I thought of saying something like, "Mabel dear, we're discussing business with these gentlemen so go back to your room and wait for me," or something like, "We're engaged at present, Miss Carmichael, but we'll see you shortly," but the first seemed indecent and the second illogical, and no satisfactory substitute got to my tongue in time.

Wolfe, finished, dropped the phone back in its cradle and snapped at her, "What do you mean, coming in here dressed like that? Go back upstairs until I'm ready for you!"

His effort, it seemed to me, was no improvement on the ones I had rejected.



Heh. And then one of my favorite Archie and Fritz moments, because it totally underscores my reading of the Archie-Fritz relationship as "Archie is a lost duckling who has adopted Fritz as his mother"--

Fritz, who understands me, had fresh hot oatmeal ready, the chill off my bottle of cream, the eggs waiting for the pan, the ham sliced thin for the broiler, the pancake batter mixed, the griddle hot, and the coffee steaming. I made a pass as if to kiss him on the cheek, he kept me off with a twenty-inch pointed knife, and I sat down and started the campaign against starvation with the Times propped up in front of me.


N'awww. And Wolfe warning Archie about Cecily, the cougar, who is trying to seduce him with gifts:

He wiggled a finger at me. "Archie. That woman is a wanton maniac. It would be foolhardy to accept baseball tickets--"

The doorbell rang.

"If it's her again," Wolfe commanded me in quick panic, "don't let her in!"



There's also a super cute moment in Chapter 19 when Archie decides that the case isn't moving along (see, Archie totally agrees with me that there's not enough plot in this book) so he's going to go to a movie: Ordinarily I let the movies wait when we're busy on a case, but I broke precedent that Friday evening because (a) we weren't busy - at least God knows Wolfe wasn't - and (b) I strongly doubted if it was a case. [....] So I let my mind go blank and enjoyed the movie up to a certain point, staying nearly to the end. When it came to where they were preparing to wind it up right and let it out that the hero really had not put over the fake contract and cleaned up, I left in a hurry, because I had formed my own opinion of the hero from where I sat and chose to think otherwise.

Aw. That seems like such a fannish response to me. "I can tell where this is going, and I choose to believe that it's not canon, because it makes no sense for the character." Plus, it's so true of so many movies of the 40s, where you just KNOW that no, it didn't actually end with justice and true love resolving everything, that just happened because of the Hays Office. (See the end of "Gilda" for instance-- if Johnny and Gilda don't end up in a murder/suicide before the month is out, I would be astonished, but the movie seems to think they'll be FINE.)


IN CLOSING

So, what does everyone else think of this book? Does anyone like it better than I do? Would it have been better as a novella, instead of a full-length novel? Does anyone have any thoughts about the subplot where Archie and Wolfe are purposely putting it out there that Hester Livsey knows who killed Waldo Moore and Kerr Naylor? Or Archie's attitude towards the various female characters, or the theme of "protect your woman," or the appearance of Saul etc.,?

And perhaps most important of all-- what happens when Archie goes and meets everybody at 7pm at the bar at Rusterman's?

And, just a reminder, next week's book is "And Be A Villain" (UK title: More Deaths Than One) and the discussion post will be posted on Friday, Feb 1. (If anyone would like to volunteer to post that discussion post, let me know in the comments-- otherwise, I will go ahead and do it.) And the week after that, on Friday, Feb 8, will be the discussion of "The Second Confession".

(no subject)

Date: 2013-01-26 02:15 pm (UTC)
travels_in_time: (Default)
From: [personal profile] travels_in_time
I don't have access to many Nero Wolfe books right now and therefore can't discuss this one, but I wanted to let you know that I loved your discussion. Especially the character interactions between the residents of the brownstone, which are always my favorite parts of the books. I also really liked how you pointed out that Archie had a very fannish response to the movie he watched. <3

(no subject)

Date: 2013-01-26 03:30 pm (UTC)
jest: (pic#84512)
From: [personal profile] jest
Admittedly, it has been a while since I've read Too Many Women (I started rereading it for bookclub a couple times last year, but couldn't keep up the momentum). However, I remember really liking it, but then, I don't read these things for the plot. As far as I'm concerned, plot has never been Rex Stout's strong point. I don't remember much about Silent Speaker (except that Archie took the death of the wicked smart female lead very hard) probably because it was plot heavy and banter/filler light. I love filler.

Stuff I remember liking about Too Many Women.

-it read to me like Archie Goodwin going to work for Sterling Cooper.

-the vegetarian restaurant scene! I've been a vegetarian for 10+ years now. For some inexplicable reason, I've always found scathing portrayals of vegetarianism in the media really funny.

-Archie doesn't like clover!

-Primitive!Archie That's how one of the women on the old yahoo mailing list describes him in the early books where he runs around getting in fist fights and basically acting like a young man with a bit too much testosterone coursing through his system. Primitive!Archie would be really irritating for me if he stayed like that for the entire run of the series, but the fact that he completely outgrows this behaviour by the end of the oeuvre makes it really interesting reading. I can't think of another book series that ran for such a long time and served up that kind of slow but sustained character development. Nero Wolfe books are so weirdly unchanging with respect to the brownstone and the fact that the characters don't AGE, that it's easy to forget just how different Archie is in the end from where he started in these early books.

On that note: it would be really interesting to hear from someone who read Too Many Women without the context of the rest of the series. I've read all the books so many times now that I don't remember what it was like to read them as stand-alones.

You're probably right about this book working better as a novella. IIRC, it was pretty short for a novel even, so possibly Rex Stout was stretching to meet some length requirement?


...oy, I have to leave the house now. More on this later, maybe.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-01-27 02:39 pm (UTC)
jest: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jest
Aw, really? I think his plots are great.

With the exception of The Doorbell Rang, I barely remember any of the plots that took place in NYC. They all just blur together in my head. On that note, my lack of interest in plot has pretty much been my downfall in terms of finishing any fanfic. It always comes out really forced and boring because I can't seem to care enough about it to make it interesting.

But I think "I do not like clover" is pretty telling.

Me too.

Archie, for all that he clearly likes to think of himself as a 10 on the scale of American manliness, is actually in a weirdly constrained position when it comes to his relationships with women. I think the women he finds attractive kinda reflect that. Whoever he's dating is always going to come second to work/Wolfe, so that limits him to casual relationships because there aren't very many women who would be tolerant of that long-term. He doesn't like mess, so high-strung or clingy women are out. I suspect Archie's probably got the timing down to a science on exactly when he needs to break things off so that both people can walk away with no hard feelings (except IIRC, in one of the books there was a woman with hard feelings - was the one with the unwed mothers?)

Lily Rowan gets to be the exception because she never really sets herself against his relationship with Wolfe. She'll tease Archie about it, but I bet she never issued any sort of ultimatum telling him that he has to chose between her and Wolfe. She was very quick to see on what terms they could have a relationship and how well it would suit her. I just love them together so much! ♥

(no subject)

Date: 2013-01-26 05:18 pm (UTC)
soupytwist: city street in the rain (umbrella)
From: [personal profile] soupytwist
I remember finding it frustrating too - the plot is really kind of rubbish (although the faked hit-and-run is not a bad start, it is not done justice) and Archie spends SO much time away from Wolfe! Archie in an office is kind of hilarious as a premise, but there can be too much of it, and yeow, was there.

Archie getting in the fight really does seem like something from a turbulent youth - I don't think we ever see him get in quite that kind of thing again.

Archie being completely discombobulated is always adorable, though. :D

(no subject)

Date: 2013-01-27 05:03 pm (UTC)
soupytwist: city street in the rain (umbrella)
From: [personal profile] soupytwist
And also, Archie *undercover* in an office would have been awesome, but his cover is blown in about two minutes and then it's just Archie hanging around staring suspiciously at people and them staring suspiciously back, FOREVER, which is not so entertaining.

YES EXACTLY.

And yes exactly - Archie has bags of time to explain the situation, and that he doesn't comes over as very young and petulant, and not in a good way - it's like, rah I am in a bad mood so I'm going to pick a fight without thinking about the consequences. (Both for himself and, as you say, for Rosa, who I have always felt sorry for!)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-01-26 06:50 pm (UTC)
dorinda: Randolph Scott smiles at Cary Grant. (Randolph_Cary)
From: [personal profile] dorinda
My day is swamped, so I'll have to come back to say more things later, but I thought I'd just quickly toss in a question I have:

Very early on, in the first scene in Wolfe's office (in chapter V), there's a segment I don't quite understand. Archie has successfully convinced Wolfe to take the job, and Wolfe has just dictated a letter stating his terms. Then it continues (with Wolfe speaking):

"After lunch you can go down and give that to him."

If I had been cool before I was a glacier now. "Why lunch?" I demanded. "Why should I eat?"

"Why not?" His eyes went open. "What's the matter?"

"Nothing. Not a thing. But what I start I like to finish, and this may take weeks. There are one or two other little matters that need attention around here, and there's a bare possibility that you may find it slightly inconvenient when you buzz me or call me or grunt at me, as you do on an average of ten times an hour, and I'm not here. Or, perhaps, that hadn't occurred to me, perhaps you're figuring on a replacement?"

"Archie," he murmured. His murmur is Wolfe at his worst. "I agree with someone, I forget who, that no man is indispensable. By the way, you may have noticed that I suggested the same salary as you receive from me. You can either endorse their checks over to me for deposit in my bank, and take my checks weekly as usual, or just keep their checks as your pay, whichever is simpler for your bookkeeping."

"Thank you very much." I made no attempt to speak further. His deliberate use of the plural, checks, instead of check, three times, therefore got exactly the effect he intended it to. I got out paper and carbon and inserted them, and started on the typewriter in a way that left no possible doubt whether it was noiseless or not.

Coolness.


So... it's been established that everyone is fighting, and in particular Archie and Wolfe are having the car/typewriter disagreement. Granted.

My question is, what's going on in this segment? Archie seemed fine at the beginning of the scene despite his acknowledgement of the existing coolness; he snarks about Pine's ridiculous idea of Wolfe working there undercover (as "Clarence Camembert" or "Percy Pickle" ♥) and tips Wolfe over into taking the job.

So: why does Archie suddenly get so upset after the dictation? Something in the letter? The fact he's being sent to work undercover? And then, what is the implication of "checks" plural instead of check that 1) Wolfe intends, and 2) sends Archie over the edge?

I mean, he's upset enough not to talk at all, no snarking, no nothing, just angry typewriter fusillade. What gives?

(Archie, for someone who loves to depict himself as a manly-man's-man with the dames draped nymphomaniacally all over your lips and the cabbies telling you you're good enough to box at Madison Square Garden, you are SO EMOTIONALLY FRAGILE when it comes to Wolfe, I swear.)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-01-27 07:10 pm (UTC)
dorinda: Fat Pony appears in a blaze of light! (Fat_Pony)
From: [personal profile] dorinda
Ahhhh yeah, that makes good sense. And it fits in with Archie's later hyper-awareness of Saul's presence... He's all "Where's Saul?" suspiciously, I presume expecting Wolfe to be 1) employing Saul secretly behind Archie's back, and 2) leaning on Saul as Archie's possible replacement. And Wolfe is all innocently like, "Dunno, I think he's off on some case of his own".

I find it interesting here how Archie seems to try and spark Wolfe's...what, protectiveness? Neurosis? Strong feelings, anyway, about what Archie eats and when. We've seen in earlier books Wolfe being disagreeable and distressed when Archie suggests skipping a meal or eating something that Wolfe considers substandard. So here, Archie goes fishing by beginning his argument by saying WELL I GUESS I SHOULD JUST GO RIGHT NOW AND NOT STAY FOR LUNCH :( , but Wolfe doesn't rise to the bait.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-01-27 02:02 pm (UTC)
jest: (pic#84512)
From: [personal profile] jest
I'm pretty much in agreement with liviapenn's analysis of the scene.

(Archie, for someone who loves to depict himself as a manly-man's-man with the dames draped nymphomaniacally all over your lips and the cabbies telling you you're good enough to box at Madison Square Garden, you are SO EMOTIONALLY FRAGILE when it comes to Wolfe, I swear.)

What I love most is that Archie is so lacking in self-awareness about it, like he probably wouldn't present himself that way if he knew he was doing it. Do you think Rex Stout realized how it comes off or do you think as an author he was blind to it too?
Edited Date: 2013-01-27 02:03 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-01-26 09:39 pm (UTC)
lastscorpion: vole (vole)
From: [personal profile] lastscorpion
It probably would have been better as a novella, but OTOH if you can sell it as a novel why wouldn't you? I think this may be one of the books that suffered from Rex Stout's practice of (almost) never doing more than one draft.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-01-27 08:05 pm (UTC)
dorinda: Hands reach for two identical glasses, which are labeled "half empty" and "half full". (halfemptyhalffull)
From: [personal profile] dorinda
Does anyone like it better than I do?

Sadly, no. I have a hard time putting my finger on it, but this book never sticks with me (just as you say), and it doesn't feel very satisfying somehow. I mean, there are Wolfe books I reread just for the pleasure, and this isn't one of them. I can't remember who's who, or who did what to whom, and I find myself hard-pressed to care. I even find the cast of suspects mostly kind of irritating instead of likeably snarky or interesting or comic relief or whatever I'm supposed to feel.

Maybe part of it is that I'm just never convinced enough of anyone's motives, so when things happen that delay the plot or toss in a red herring or whatever, it just feels like they happened Because The Author Required It. And I generally find that tedious instead of fun.

In fact, it's one of my primary questions whenever I run into a plot wherein it's actually the culprit who has hired the detective. Why would he put himself in such a dangerous situation? Sometimes a story can actually provide a motive, characterization, and situation I find convincing, but here I just can't buy it. Even if it's true (as I guess Pine thinks?) that the mere fact of Kerr being an asshole by putting "murdered" on a report read by the other executives means that Pine has to actually hire a private detective (rather than any of the other reactions, from "That Kerr, what an asshole, right? Welp, guys, time for three martini lunch" to "I'll go talk to the police and see if they agree--nope, they don't, I'm satisfied"), why would Pine go the extra mile? What did he think he'd gain by hiring the most lionized detective in New York? And why couldn't he be talked out of it, even when other people like his wife were eager to do so? I mean, sometimes people get talked out of things...wouldn't it have been safer for him to let himself be dissuaded?

I don't know, it just felt like a lot of the other things in this book (especially the Convenient Plot Delays, where someone's like "I have this information! But I can't tell you yet for no clear reason! I shall delay long enough to get killed/let you bark up the wrong tree/fill some more pages!"), like the plot was driving the characters instead of the other way around. Including, as people have pointed out, Archie goading Mr. Punchy into a fistfight instead of just telling him the truth in the first place, oy. I could've bought it if I had a sense that Archie was at the end of his rope, ready to lose his temper, spoiling for a fight to regain some face he'd previously lost, or some other groundwork laid for such an otherwise dumb plot-propeller. But this didn't convince me at all.

I did enjoy little things like the Veggie Raw Foodist guy, with the favorite restaurant and the proselytizing with pamphlets. Or when Rosa has had a bath and is lounging in the red leather chair, and Wolfe's only reaction is to balk at the color clash between the chair and her cherry-colored "garment" (I presume a robe/dressing gown/negligee) so she moves to a yellow chair. Aesthetic-Wolfe always pleases me. *g*

Or, when Saul reveals he saw a woman with Kerr before he got killed, and Archie recognizes the description as Hester; Archie thinks about how in other circumstances he'd stall for time, "But this was Nero Wolfe and Saul Panzer," so he just has to come right out and say it. I find it interesting how Archie argues against Wolfe telling the police about it right away, and Wolfe argues back, until finally:

"Archie." Wolfe was glaring. "Has that girl enravished you? Has she cajoled you into frenzy?"

"Yes, sir."

That took the edge off him instantly.


Wolfe disregards Archie's earlier arguments, but when Archie seems to lose it and gets all shouty, Wolfe asks his question and gets a flat yes--and that's it, his decision is instantly reversed. I'm not sure why--whether it's because he doesn't want to alienate Archie by continuing to threaten this girl Archie seemingly has feelings for (thus pushing Archie to choose the girl over him, a threat Archie has been known to toss around), whether he thinks Archie's subconscious couldn't feel like that about someone if she were undeniably guilty, whether he realizes he wants to spare Archie some pain until they can get more evidence, or something else--but I really like it, as an indicator of Wolfe's connection to Archie and something about his deeper regard for him.

And finally: I honestly have no idea what Archie's plans are for 7pm at Rusterman's. I mean, I can't even be sure he's planning to show up! (Except for how I suppose that would be undeniably rude, and he's not a boorish guy.) It seems to me that he's certainly demonstrating to Wolfe that he plans no further liaison with any of them (since I can't imagine any of them, thinking she's going on a one-on-one date, being amused by turning out to be part of a harem), which I find interesting and kind of sweet. *g*

(no subject)

Date: 2013-01-28 09:41 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] redstar
I ran a quick edit-find, and Lon Cohen shows up first as a voice on the phone a couple of times in The Silent Speaker. So it's his second appearance, not first, but he's still pretty new.

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