Friday, December 13, 2013

"Death of a Doxy" by Rex Stout

I think that the first episode I ever saw of the A&E series A Nero Wolfe Mystery was the one based on this story.  Because the actors for that show are most indelibly fixed in my head in these particular roles.

If you've never watched the show, I need to explain that the show is kind of a throw-back to the idea of a local repertory theater group.  By which I mean that while the regulars (Archie, Wolfe, Fritz, Saul, Fred, Orrie, Lon Cohen, and Inspector Cramer) are all played by the same actors all the time, there's another group of actors that all play different characters depending on the story.  For instance, this story has a character named Avery Ballou played by actor James Tolkan.  Tolkan plays 11 completely different characters in other episodes.  So while some series regulars on the show always play the same characters, other series regulars play a different character in every story.  Which took a little getting used to.  And for me, all those regulars are most indelibly stamped in my head as the characters they play in this story.  When watching other episodes, I'll sometimes think, "Oh, her!  She was Stella Fleming."  Or "Oh, him!  He was Avery Ballou."  So I think I saw this one first, and possibly more often than some of the others just because I only had a couple of eps on VHS at first, though I know have both seasons on DVD.  And a t-shirt, which I serendipitously am wearing today.  Hmm.

But enough about the show!  (It's wonderful.  Try to see it.  Swell period costumes, great acting, top-notch plots... sorry, I said enough, didn't I.)  I'm supposed to be reviewing the book here.  I hadn't read it before, so that was an added bonus :-)  But any trip through a Nero Wolfe novel is a delight for me.  I simply love these characters and their world.  Archie Goodwin might be my favorite narrator of all time, even over Philip Marlowe (!) -- he's got such zest and zing, and is generally cheerful.

The plot of this one, as you might have guessed, involves a dead doxy.  "Doxy" being another name for a "kept woman."  The doxy in question was two-timing her sugar-daddy with none other than Orrie Cather, one of the freelance detectives Nero Wolfe sometimes hires to help tail a suspect or gather information, etc.  When the doxy dies, Orrie lands in jail on suspicion of murder.  Wolfe, Archie, and the other tow freelance operatives they sometimes hire (Saul Panzer and Fred Durkin, just so you know) decide they don't believe Orrie did it, and they set out to find out to did.

Particularly Good Bits:

He uttered a French sound, loud, maybe it was a word (p. 142).

Cramer said a word, loud, which I omit because I suspect that some of the readers of these reports are people like retired schoolteachers and den mothers (p. 148).

If This Was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for allusions to people being in a sexual relationship.

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