Vintage Mystery: Don’t eat those chocolates!

Review: The Red Box by Rex Stout

A keeper? Of course! It’s a Nero Wolfe.

The world must have changed a lot since 1937. Fat, lazy, brilliant, orchid-growing, beer-swilling detective Nero Wolfe is arm-twisted into trying to figure out who poisoned a fashion model with candy full of cyanide. From today’s perspective, it’s hard to imagine not one model, but three, casually gobbling a box of candy! (The other two girls survive; only one type of chocolate was poisoned.)

Of course, the mystery doesn’t stop there. Wolfe quickly decides that the dead girl was not the intended victim. Who was? Will Wolfe pin down the killer before anyone else dies? And where, oh where, is the mysterious box that will explain why one of the surviving models is being pestered to marry a man old enough to be her father?

It’s a good enough mystery to hold your interest, with a puzzle centered on what exactly went on in Spain twenty-odd years earlier. But for a Wolfe fan, the real strangeness of this story is seeing the standard cast of characters act almost, but not quite, like their familiar selves. For example –

Inspector Cramer actually lights, and smokes, one of his cigars!

At the end, though, everything is back in its comfortable pattern, with all the suspects assembled in Wolfe’s office nervously waiting for the great man to expose the real killer, with the help of surprise evidence tracked down by the second greatest detective in New York, the one and only Saul Panzer. Don’t expect a great novel; think of this as a pretty good episode of NCIS, with all the characters going through their usual paces as the problem of the week is sorted out. It may not be great art, but it’s fun.

3 responses to “Vintage Mystery: Don’t eat those chocolates!

  1. Never heard of Wolfe, but I love your style of review! This was fun to read.

  2. Pingback: Vintage Mysteries – Man in the Tree | A Number of Things

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