Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Three Doors to Death by Rex Stout

book cover

Three Doors to Death
by Rex Stout

Mass Market Paperback: 150 pages
Publisher: Bantam Books
Released: June 1966

Source: Bought at a library book sale.

Book Description, my take:
Nero Wolfe solves three cases in this short story collection:

"Man Alive" - A young fashion model comes to Wolfe because she saw her uncle, who supposedly committed suicide months ago, at her last fashion show. But then the uncle is found dead in his old office, and Wolfe must discover who killed him.

"Omit Flowers" - Wolfe's friend and favorite chef asks him to investigate a murder that he swears a chef friend was framed for. The wealthy widow of a fast-food chain married a man she wanted trained to take over the business. The chef and her children didn't want him to take over, and they were all present at the time of the murder. But who did it?

"Door to Death" - Wolfe is in desperate need of a good gardener to take care of his orchids--so much so that he actually goes to the gardener to convince him. But right after the gardener agrees to come, they discover the dead body of the gardener's girlfriend in the greenhouse. The police arrest the gardener, but Wolfe isn't about to lose his orchid expert!

My Review:
Three Doors to Death is a collection of three short mystery stories that were written in the late 1940s and set in New York. The mysteries were whodunit logic puzzles in style but have an underlying humor. Due to the short story format, the characters didn't have much depth or complexity...though Wolfe and his clever assistant were engaging and a little more filled out.

I think I like Nero Wolfe as a brainy detective better than Sherlock Holmes and the like. It's Wolfe's genius that allows him to ask the right questions and know how to play various characters off each other. However, we get the clues as he does and so the exact moment that Wolfe knew (without a doubt) who did it, I did, too. The timing was impeccable, keeping me fully engaged in the puzzle but never feeling frustrated. I've never read anything else by Rex Stout, so I wonder if his novels are like this, too.

There was a minor amount of cussing and swearing. There was no sex. Overall, I'd highly recommend this novel (and author) to those who like logic-puzzle mysteries.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from "Man Alive"
She said in her nicely managed voice that was a pleasure to listen to, "Daumery and Nieder."

I asked her politely, "Will you spell it, please?"

I meant the Daumery, since I already had the Nieder down in my notebook, her name being, so she had said, Cynthia Nieder.

Her lovely bright blue eyes changed expression to show that she suspected me of kidding her--as if I had asked her to spell Shakespeare or Charlie Chaplin. But I was so obviously innocent that the eyes changed again and she smiled.

She spelled Daumery and added, "Four ninety-six Seventh Avenue. That's what we get for being so cocky about how famous we are--we get asked how to spell it. What if someone asked you how to spell Nero Wolfe?"

"Try it," I suggested, smiling back at her. I extended a hand. "Put your fingers on my pulse and ask me. But don't ask me how to spell Archie Goodwin, which is me. That would hurt."

Wolfe grunted peevishly and readjusted a few hundred of his pounds in his built-to-order high-test chair behind his desk. "You made," he told our visitor, "an appointment to see me. I suppose you need a detective. If so tell me what for, without encouraging Mr. Goodwin to start caterwauling. It takes very little to set him off."

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