For the fifty-ninth book in the challenge, I read Fer-de-Lance by Rex Stout, the first in his Nero Wolfe series.
I didn’t connect with the main characters very well. There’s a lot of fat-shaming in the narrator, Archie, and that was really annoying. Maybe a 300-pound guy was weird in the 1920’s, but every time the narrator talks about Wolfe, he references his weight. That gets old pretty damn fast. Wolfe describes himself as “eccentric,” rather than a number of other possible descriptors that others would likely deem infinitely more precise. Here is a brief list of my own suggestions: difficult, perfectionistic, pedantic, and debilitatingly arrogant. Archie probably has him tied for arrogance, although it’s a different sort that swaggers about in a confidence suit. As much as he rags on Wolfe for being condescending, Archie is a master of talking down to people when it suits him. (As we all are, I suppose.)
The whole mechanism by which the mystery unfolds is similar to a lot of other detective stories of the time, which is that the narrator is the detective’s assistant and the inner workings of their employer’s mind is shrouded from them (and thus the reader) until the dramatic reveal. This can be repetitive unless the characters are interesting to watch, the plot devices curious, and you think you can guess at what the detective is thinking (even if you discover you’re totally wrong later). Wolfe’s entire strategy seems to be putting ads in newspapers and waiting for people to come to him with information, and sending Archie out to drag people to his office for interrogation after interrogation. Perhaps I shouldn’t write off the entire series after only one book, but I’m really not in any hurry to pick up the rest of the series. There are so many other wonderful series for me to focus on first, so that’s what I intend to do.
I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars. It’s not bad, it just didn’t grab me.