I must preface this review with two facts. First, I have read all of Rex Stout’s “Nero Wolfe” character novels and novellas, and enjoyed them all. Second, the book I am reviewing is my first book authored by Goldsborough. But it definitely will not be my last! Goldsborough was chosen by the Rex Stout estate to continue Stout’s work. He has, so far, authored eight Nero Wolfe books, with this one being his eighth. Now, on to the book.
Long time fans of Nero Wolfe know that his primary operative was Archie Goodwin. Besides an operative, Goodwin was Wolfe’s house guest, typist, accountant, orchid propagation keeper, and any other tasks of which Wolfe thought. Never in the 33 novels or the 39 novellas was the complete story of how Archie came to work for Mr. Wolfe discussed. We were provided with numerous information snippets about Archie along the way, but this is the first work that describes how Archie left Ohio, his first job, his first “big” case in which he was introduced to Wolfe, his display of maturity, his total recall ability, and why Wolfe offered him a job.
The big case involved Burke Williamson, a very rich hotelier, his son Tommie (who was kidnapped), and the Williamson Estate staff. The case allows Archie to demonstrate his prowess to Wolfe, who goes on to solve the two attendant murders and expose all the kidnappers.
What is most impressive (to me, at least) is how Goldsborough thoroughly researched Fer-de-Lance, (1934) the first Nero Wolfe mystery with its very brief introduction of Williamson, the “fleshing out” and, true to Stout, the development of the characters, and the development of a case worthy of Wolfe’s time and talent.
Besides Archie, Goldsborough introduces and provides information about Police Inspector Lionel Cramer, operatives Saul Panzer, Fred Durkin, Orrie Cather, cook Fritz Brenner, and private investigator Del Bascom. He also briefly introduces Police Lieutenant George Rowcliff, Police Sargent Purley Stebbins, Wolfe’s orchid tender Theodore Horstmann, and operative Bill Gore. Goldsborough is quite true to the characters that Stout established.
I think that all Nero Wolfe fans will find this book to be a real reading treat. Bon appétit.