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Date: 2013-02-04 03:45 am (UTC)
dorinda: Randolph Scott smiles at Cary Grant. (Randolph_Cary)
From: [personal profile] dorinda
Man oh man. Sorry to be late, but I had to work all weekend, when I would most definitely have rather been here!

I like this book much better than the previous one as well, and I like to re-read it. I think you definitely hit on some good reasons why: the milieu is interesting, the characters are pretty distinct and all have their own needs and behaviors. The mystery flows well, and hits the sweet spot of being just complex enough without being so abstruse as to bore me; everyone's motivations and actions feel believable. And I didn't have much trouble keeping the female characters distinct, if only because Deborah Koppel, surprisingly, is 1) fat, and 2) older than Archie's commonly-stated target zone (at least, I assume so, from him noticing the gray in her hair), and yet he doesn't put her down at every turn. Shocking, kind of. *g*

But re: my enjoyment of the book, even more to the point is the...what, the emotional flow to it, maybe, seeing the characters I love interacting vigorously and well with each other. Wolfe and Archie are getting along, which means they can poke at each other, which is fun, without the worry of either of them actually getting seriously bent out of shape. I enjoy seeing more of Lon, and spending time with him and Archie over a big steak! And of course, I love the initial build-up of Zeck, brrr.

Something weird about my copy--both my copy that's still in storage, and the library copy I re-read for this discussion: the soft drink is called Hi-Spot, not Starlite! I had never seen Starlite before. So your discussion post made me go look it up:

In the first U.S. edition and most subsequent printings the soft drink is named Hi-Spot; but the soft drink is named Starlite in some early printings, including the British first edition, the U.S. book club edition and the omnibus collection Full House.

Well, I'll be dipped. Does anyone know why?

I really like how Zeck is introduced. (Question: is this actually his first appearance? I mean, 'onscreen'? We hear that Wolfe has spoken to him before, but that seemed to me like one of those things we see in other books, references to between-book events slipped in so naturally that you can't even tell.) Wolfe seems sincerely affected, and the true test of a Moriarty is whether the Great Detective seems honestly wary of him.

And not just wary: protective! When Archie asks Wolfe how on earth he discovered Zeck's name, Wolfe says:

"Two years ago I engaged some of Mr. Bascom's men without telling you. He had sounded as if he were a man of resource and resolution, and I didn't want to get you involved."

Seriously, AWWWW. Wolfe thinks highly (or lowly) enough of Zeck that he has already done his utmost to keep Archie out of his path in any way. And actually, this potentially gives us the first inkling of the choice Wolfe will eventually make, when he does flee the Brownstone to go underground and fight Zeck--even though in the next book, Wolfe says that he couldn't possibly contemplate the fleeing-plan without Archie (as I mention in this post referring to The Second Confession), as we find out, Wolfe does indeed go without him. And the protectiveness on display here seems to lay some of that groundwork.

I think it's interesting that Archie doesn't react badly here to being told he was purposely kept so far out of the loop! We see him being twitchy and defensive many times when he feels or fears he's being replaced, but here he lets it slide. Perhaps Wolfe's honest fear for him comes through?

And as you quoted, this book is the one with the claaaassic exchange about Zeck, where Archie asks if he eats human flesh, preferably handsome young men, and Wolfe says "He does worse." I am completely on board with the idea of spinning that into Zeck-the-sexual-predator, as Parhelion for instance has done.

Despite the overdetermined make-her-a-super-harridan you point out very accurately about Mrs. Michaels, I like the food-porn scene where Dr. Michaels is invited for dinner. Actually, most of all I like the preamble, where Wolfe has invited him, and Archie tells Wolfe he's uncovered the secret of "your great big warm heart". Daw. And Wolfe's "Bosh. You would sentimentalize the multiplication table" has such a Holmes/Watson ring to it, Holmes scoffing to Watson that Watson is such a romantic as to put "a love-story or an elopement into the fifth proposition of Euclid."

You also hit on some of the other moments that always delight me. Wolfe drawing horses. The privilege of beholding bedhead-barefoot-Wolfe in his yellow jammies! I adore an undercurrent of the domesticity, reminding me how very together they do live.
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