Friday, April 8, 2016

Stop the Presses! (The Nero Wolfe Mysteries)

Author:  Robert Goldsborough
Genre:  Mystery/Suspense

Paperback; Ebook
ISBN #:  9781504023573
252 Pages
$11.54; $9.99 Amazon
March 8, 2016
Five Stars

There are few people Nero Wolfe respects, and Lon Cohen of the New York Gazette is one of them.  So Cohen asks for a favor, the famously brilliant - and notoriously lazy - detective is inclined to listen.  According to Cohen, someone wants to kill the Gazette's gossip columnist, Cameron clay.  Death threats are a regular hazard for Clay, who's hurled insults and accusations at every bold-faced name in the five boroughs.  But the latest threats have carried a more sinister tone.

The columnist has narrowed his potential killers down to five people:  an egomanical developer, a disgraced cop, a corrupt councilman, a sleazy lawyer, and his ex-wife.  But when Clay turns up dead, the cops deem it a suicide.  The bigwigs at the Gazette don't agree, so they retain Wolfe and his indefatigable assistant, Archie Goodwin, to figure out which of the suspects had the mettle to pull the trigger.


Archie Goodwin is relaxing after breakfast when he receives a call from Lon Cohen of the New York Gazette, who is also a longtime friend of Archie's and his boss, Nero Wolfe.  It seems one of Lon's coworkers, Cameron Clay, is receiving death threats.  Cameron writes a popular gossip column, Stop the Presses! and because of this, he has made enemies throughout the years.  Lon wants Nero to speak with him; and after some cajoling Wolfe agrees.

When Clay arrives, both Archie and Wolfe take a dislike to him.  But this notwithstanding, they listen to his tale:  he has been receiving death threats by telephone and has it figured that it must be one of five people who he thinks hate him the most:  Roswell Stokes, a high-powered attorney; Kerwin Andrews, a real estate developer; Millard Beardsley, a city councilman; Michael Tobin, a disgraced ex-cop who has recently gotten out of prison; and Serena Sanchez, an opera diva and Clay's ex-wife.

When Wolfe advises Clay to accept police protection or hire a private security firm, Clay disregards the notion.  Wolfe then informs Lon that he has done all he can and Clay is on his own.  As luck would have it, Clay is not too soon after found dead, shot through the temple.  While the police have registered it as a suicide, Lon calls Wolfe and tells him that his bosses - Ashton Cordwell, the Gazette's editor and publisher, and Eric Haverhill, owner of the newspaper, believe that Clay was murdered, and they want Wolfe to find the killer.

After meeting with the men, Wolfe accepts the case only under the condition that they will accept whatever conclusions he comes up with, and they agree.  It is then that Wolfe sets Archie out and about, seeking those persons who allegedly wished to do Clay harm, and have them brought to the brownstone to meet with Wolfe.

This, of course, Archie does with his usual flair and wit - and a bit of lying thrown in, but nothing that would get his license revoked.  As would be expected, nearly all are loathe to visit Wolfe for even a few moments, but Archie has a way with words and convinces them it would be in their best interests to show up, speak with Wolfe and answer his questions.  Along with questioning them, Wolfe also meets with Clay's 'legman', Larry McNeil, and Archie questions Clay's personal taxi driver in hopes of finding the truth of his death.

This book, like the others in the series, is a sheer masterpiece in enjoyment.  Nero Wolfe, with his brilliant mind yet with innate laziness, and Archie Goodwin, private detective extraordinaire who is Wolfe's eyes, ears, and jack-of-all-trades, mesh together in a fine clockwork of thought and action that is fascinating to listen to as they wield words like weapons.  This is no blood-and-guts book; nor is there any heart-stopping activity.  In this, we see through the voice of Archie, his thoughts and words defining beautifully all that is laid out before us.

And what a tale it is:  Greed, hatred, anger - the worst definition of man; and yet the best - respect, honor, integrity - in the interactions between Wolfe and Archie.  Peppered throughout delightfully are scenes of Archie and his lady-love, Lily Rowan, who, by chance, helps Archie in his investigation of the shady characters involved.

When Wolfe comes to the conclusion of his investigation he has gathered as per his wont, all the suspects together along with the presence of Inspector Cramer and his crony, Sergeant Purley Stebbins, whose mutual dislike neither Stebbins nor Archie has ever tried to hide.  Wolfe then lays out the facts as he sees them, and the conclusion he comes to satisfies, as it was meant to do all along.

This is the latest entry in the Nero Wolfe books, following Archie in the Crosshairs, and I sincerely hope it will not be the last.  Highly recommended.

More on Robert Goldsborough's books:                                                                               

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