Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Mother Hunt

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of The Mother Hunt (Viking, 1963).

Wow, this one was a mean, mean book. This time, and presumably knowing that the celebrated Nero Wolfe only gets hired for cases that will end up with somebody getting killed along the way, a young widow hires Wolfe and his indefatigable man-at-arms Archie to find out who left a toddler on her doorstep with the note "A BOY SHOULD LIVE IN HIS FATHERS HOUSE." It's the sort of story that should not result in a body count, but Archie's not able to question anybody about this without them ending up in somebody's crosshairs.

The books in this series are the most entertaining when circumstances throw Wolfe out of his comfort zone and agitate him to fury, and I don't think any yet have done it as well as this one. I mean, this one's a pretty bleak and heavy story and unlike anything Stout had tried in the canon before. On the other hand, I've grown depressingly tired of the trope of Inspector Cramer throwing his weight around and arresting Archie, pointlessly, as a material witness in the hopes of getting him to cough up something that Cramer is certain that he knows but, honestly, doesn't. Yet.

Apologies if anybody's actually following along my Rex Stout label at this blog looking for something more insightful and deep in the form of review, but this are as much notes to myself to help me recall the adventure down the line as anything else, and it's awfully difficult to pick out a story for really detailed analysis when each story in the canon has so much in common with the others. Highlighting the differences seems to work for casual browsing, anyway.

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