Saturday, January 28, 2012

Not Quite Dead Enough, by Rex Stout

Not Quite Dead Enough
By Rex Stout

I might have known something like this would happen if I left him to manage himself. It is not only bad, it may be helpless. The fathead. The big fat goop. (Archie Goodwin)

The standard for most Nero Wolfe books is that they're either novel length or collections of three novellas. There are only two novellas in this one, as was the case with Black Orchids and probably at least one other title that's not springing to mind right now. These stories date from World War II and find Archie in uniform, as Major Goodwin, and Wolfe making an attempt to do his part for the war effort. As I've mentioned before, I don't see congenital smartass Archie Goodwin as the type to fit into the military so well, but if you can suspend belief on that point these stories are quite entertaining otherwise.

Not Quite Dead Enough
The military wants Nero Wolfe's brain. Well, sort of. They want him to use his smarts for something or other but Wolfe has got it into his head that he wants to be a foot soldier and actively participate in the killing of Germans. Along with Fritz, he is undergoing a rather severe (for Wolfe) training regimen. Major Goodwin goes home to try to talk some sense into his former boss and what do you know, he gets mixed up in a murder. Which he uses as a tool, in a manner of speaking, to get Wolfe back to doing what he does best.

I'd have to say I liked this as well or better than any Wolfe story I've read lately. The plotting of the crime is nothing astounding, as is often the case, but everything else about it is classic Wolfe. Everything else including Archie relentlessly goading Wolfe and Cramer and Wolfe having at it like cats and dog, just to name a few things. Well worth the price of admission, just for this story alone.

The Booby Trap
Perhaps it's not up to the standard of the foregoing, but this one's not so shabby either. Wolfe has agreed to use his brain for the advancement of his (adopted) country's interests and after an unfortunate incident with a hand grenade he's forced to utilize it to the fullest extent. And while Wolfe's never really been a blushing bride when it comes to dealing with criminal types his method for dealing with the bad egg in this story in another league altogether.

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