Review: A Nero Wolfe Mystery

More specifically the novel Over My Dead Body, by Rex Stout, which is the seventh Nero Wolfe mystery but my first.

Supposedly Nero Wolfe was once ranked amongst the most popular fictional detectives. Now his star has faded to the point where I cannot even recall how I managed to hear about him. An interesting character, he possesses an arsenal of quirks that seem designed to set him apart from that perpetual giant of detective fiction, Sherlock Holmes. He is enormously fat. He never leaves his New York Brownstone residence where he maintains a rigorous, inflexible schedule consisting mainly of protracted meals prepared by his live in chef and hours dedicated to tending the orchids grown on the top floor. But while most of us if inflicted with such a laundry list of eccentricities would be forced to live off disability, Nero is saved from that by spending his off hours unraveling New York's most baffling crimes, all without ever leaving the house. Instead he sends out his agents, notably our narrator Archie Goodwin, to gather evidence, witnesses, and suspects and bring back to him for further analysis. At last, after much thought and more gardening, he inevitably and climatically brings all interested parties into his office where he unveils the true culprit and motive as revealed by his supposedly gigantic intellect. 

It's a great formula, but you'll notice the use of the word supposedly in that last sentence. For while Rex Stout clearly wants us to believe Nero's mind to be at the same level as his Baker Street predecessor, none of his deductions ever manage to truly impress, and sadly one cannot make up for talent with defects in character. Though that hasn't stopped many from trying. And so I was ready to close the book on Nero Wolfe, content to let Over My Dead Body be my first and only foray into his universe. But, as the days have gone by I find myself thinking more and more about that cozy, expansive Brownstone house and its quirky inhabitants. At last I've realized this must have been the true reason for Wolfe's appeal. That even if the mysteries solved in that house are of subpar quality, the setting they are solved in is sublimely charming. It was a delightful place to let ones mind rest for an evening or two. Perhaps one I may find myself visiting again from time to time.