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Date: 2013-02-25 06:51 am (UTC)
liviapenn: miss piggy bends jail bars (remains sexy while doing so) (Default)
From: [personal profile] liviapenn

*adding some late comments*

One of the interesting things about the plot of this book (and "More Deaths than One," the one that directly precedes it) is that you get a sense of Rex Stout starting to play with mystery tropes. Like, not just writing a competent mystery novel (which is hard enough, I would imagine) but actually using the readers' understanding of how mystery novels typically work, in order to misdirect their expectations.

Like, it is pretty typical to have the "reveal" halfway through a mystery that the person who died was not actually the intended target, therefore everybody's assumptions must be shaken up and the detectives basically have to start over. (As in the very first book, "Fer-de-Lance," where the wrong person is killed because he borrowed the intended victim's golf club.) So it's basically just a way to delay the conclusion of the plot, and isn't really a shocking twist for most readers-- it just means that the detectives to have to spend a couple of chapters discovering the real intended victim before they can discover the real killer. And Rex Stout uses this very trickily in "More Deaths Than One"-- if Wolfe spends the first third of the book painstakingly digging out the real "truth" that Madeline Fraser was supposed to be the real victim, then who is going to suspect her of actually being the real killer? So it's extra surprising when she actually is.

And it's the same in "The Second Confession"-- we "know" that Kane can't be the killer, because he confessed! Obviously, he is just a red herring, and the real killer MUST be someone else!! So while we're reading we completely dismiss Kane, but secretly, most of the book (if we could read it from Wolfe's perspective) is just a lot of shenanigans in order to force Kane to revoke his false confession. (Similarly, as readers we expect that Sperling was right about Rony being a communist, because he was carrying an official membership card-- even if it wasn't in his own name, it definitely didn't occur to me that it might be *someone else's* membership card. But that is also misdirection.)

Also, one of the very subtly funny things in "The Second Confession" is that several times during the book, there are hints about the strategy that Kane's using-- hiding the truth in plain sight by pretending it's an obvious lie-- because ARCHIE does it, several times. First when he's being interrogated about Wolfe's car being used to run over Rony, he's asked why he had a hangover on Sunday, and he lies by telling the truth sarcastically: I leaned forward and spoke in a low voice. "I had nine drinks and they were all doped." Obviously not true, but the fact is his drink *was* doped. Then later when Madeline Sperling asks him who scratched his face: "You'd be surprised." I tilted my head to whisper in her ear. "Your mother." And of course she just laughs. And yet even Archie doesn't suspect that Kane's confession might be working the same way...
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