Thursday, May 22, 2014

And Be a Villain

And Be a Villain is a Nero Wolfe mystery, part of the series by Rex Stout. I think I'll start picking these up as I can. I love the characters and the writing. This one I borrowed from The Younger Son, who has more of them. I have one I found locally. There are 47+ in all, so it'll be fun to hunt them down. I'm told the order doesn't matter much as long as I read the earlier ones before the later ones. has this description:
Opens with Wolfe's income tax payment. Motivated by money alone, Nero involves himself in a crime which has been broadcast over a great national network. A leading lady of the microphone interviews a racetrack tout and a professor of mathematics. In the course of the interview, as a plug for one of the sponsors, a noted soft-drink manufacturer, each guest is served a bottle of the beverage. To the astonishment of the radio public, the embarrassment of the soft-drink manufacturer, and the annoyance of the New York Police Department, the racetrack oracle instantly drops dead of cyanide poisoning. How did cyanide get into the drink? And how could anyone be sure that the tout would receive the fatal bottle? Or, for that matter, was the poisoned bottle intended for him at all?

This is only the beginning of a case more complicated than any Nero ever faced before. To solve it requires a degree of tramping around New York and rounding up of suspects far beyond the sedentary habits of Nero, and even beyond Archie Goodwin's capacity for swift motion and rapid-fire interrogation. There's only one thing for Nero to do. He must put the New York police force to work for him.

Selected as one of Stout's four best detective novels by Barzun and Taylor, And Be a Villain is also significant as the first novel in the Zeck trilogy, where Nero Wolfe faces off against a Moriarty-ish Napoleon of Crime by the name of Zeck. This story features some choice scenes of Wolfe ranting.

Kirkus Reviews says Wolfe "unties a complicated blackmail setup, pulls an answer out of thin air and makes it stick. Fat man ferreting de luxe."


  1. 47! That's impressive.

    1. prolific, wasn't he! it's a good character, too.