Vintage Mysteries – Man in the Tree

Review: The Hand in the Glove by Rex Stout

A keeper? Oh, why not?

Archie Goodwin was a much better writer than Rex Stout. And that’s amazing, considering that Archie is a character created by Stout – Archie works for Nero Wolfe and narrates all the Wolfe mysteries. But just look at the first sentences of The Red Box (a Wolfe story published in 1937) and The Hand in the Glove (a Dol Bonner story – probably THE one and only Dol Bonner story – also from 1937). First, The Hand in the Glove:

“It was not surprising that Sylvia Rafferty, on that Saturday in September, had occasion for discourse with various men, none of them utterly ordinary, and with one remarkable young woman; it was not surprising that all this happened with no special effort on Sylvia’s part, for she was rich, personable to an extreme,……”

WAKE UP!

Okay. Have you recovered yet? That’s Rex Stout in his own voice. Now, at the start of The Red Box, Archie Goodwin speaks:

“Wolfe looked at our visitor with eyes wide open – a sign, with him, either of indifference or irritation.”

Thanks, Archie. I feel better now. Anyway, the writing style in The Hand in the Glove stays somewhere between ponderous – like that first sentence – and serviceable. I will admit, though, that I stopped noticing the style once things started to happen.

And a lot happens. Dol Bonner – a formerly rich girl impoverished by the Great Depression – is trying to make it as a private detective, but her partner, Sylvia, is being pressured to take her money and run – which would force Dol out of business. Meanwhile, an acquaintance wants to hire Bonner & Rafferty to find out who’s killing tame pheasants. Meanwhile, half a dozen young men are all trying to persuade Sylvia to marry them. Meanwhile, Dol is hired to expose a probably fraudulent psychic. Meanwhile, Dol finds another character dangling from a tree, dead. And on and on it goes, with good reason to suspect just about everyone. (Possibly including Dol. Did I mention that the dead man is the person who wanted Sylvia to pull her money out of the detective partnership?)

Not a great mystery, but entertaining enough to hold my attention for a short 190 pages. And an interesting contrast to what Stout managed to do with the dozens of Wolfe stories.

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