Wednesday, November 5, 2014

"A Family Affair" by Rex Stout

This is my favorite Nero Wolfe mystery.  But I don't recommend you read it unless you're already familiar with the characters and have read several of the books or seen at least a season of the A&E show.  Because something shocking happens in it, and if you don't already know the characters super well, you aren't going to care.  And that would be a shame.

I remember the first time I read this, probably ten years ago now.  I had to stop reading it several times toward the end just so I could process what had happened.  To remain spoiler-free, I'll just say that the basic plot is this:  a waiter at Wolfe's favorite restaurant is murdered right in Wolfe's house, and so Wolfe and Archie Goodwin go to work on the mystery without a client or fee present.  This was the last Nero Wolfe mystery published during Stout's lifetime, which makes the whole story extra poignant.

Random personal note:  they mention Danbury, CT, in this one.  They mention it in a few others too.  We lived in Danbury for a few years before moving here.  The thing I liked best about that city was that it pops up in Nero Wolfe mysteries now and then because it's only a few hours from NYC.

Particularly Good Bits:

I'd buy a pedestal and put her on it if I thought she would stay.  She would either fall off or climb down, I don't know which (p. 90).

The most interesting incident Tuesday morning was my walking to a building on Thirty-fourth Street to enter a booth and push levers on a voting machine.  I have never understood why anybody passes up that bargain.  It doesn't cost a cent, and for that couple of minutes you're the star of the show, with top billing.  It's the only way that really counts for you to say I'm it, I'm the one that decides what's going to happen and who's going to make it happen.  It's the only time I really feel important and know I have a right to.  Wonderful (p. 110-111).  (So timely, considering yesterday was election day, huh?)

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for some language and violence.

This is my twelfth book read and reviewed for the Mount TBR Challenge!  I've reached my goal!  Huzzah!


  1. I read all of Stout's NW mysteries when I was in my teens -- I absolutely <3 Archie, not least 'cause he's an Ohio boy. :)

    I remember how shocked I was -- the solution to this was right up there with "Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?" for "WHAT!?!" when the villain was revealed. (Although, if I had to pick one long-term character, that would have been the one. Never liked this person ...)

    1. I didn't discover them until I was in my 20s, when the A&E series aired. I stumbled on the show by accident, fell in love with Archie by the end of the ep, and began reading the books as soon as I could. I collect them now, and have all but like 12 because they are endlessly delightful.

      And yes, the solution for this? Shocked me so much. But yes, if I had to choose one of the regulars for it, I'd have chosen him. Or Purley Stebbins. Not fond of either of them. I kind of wonder how long Stout had this planned, if he'd thought of it years earlier and kind of harbored that less-likeableness thing, or if it was a sudden inspiration.


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