Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Murder, Stage Left (The Nero Wolfe Mysteries)

Author:  Robert Goldsborough
Genre:  Mystery

Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781504041119
Mysterious Press/Open Road Media
246 Pages
$14.97; $9.99 Amazon
March 7, 2017

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When a renowned theater director senses something amiss during his latest production, he calls in Nero Wolfe.  Though the corpulent genius wouldn't normally accept a job this vague, a mutual friend dangles the prospect of a very rare orchid in exchange for his services, and Wolfe can't resist.

With a mind to suss out backstage gossip, Wolfe turns to his faithful assistant, Archie Goodwin, to impersonate a journalist in order to speak to the cast.  Though Goodwin's conversations prove unfruitful, on his last day at the theater, the director is murdered in his soundproof booth, poisoned by an unseen culprit during an evening performance.  In short order, an actor whose health is failing, attempts suicide with the same poison.

Now Goodwin is a prime suspect in the director's demise, effectively sidelining him for the rest of the case, and freelance gumshoe Saul Panzer must step in to help wrangle the various members of the play - from the ingenue and the diva to the handsome movie star and the surly stage manager - so New York's smartest, and most reclusive, private detective can determine who is responsible for these dramatic deaths and clear Goodwin's name once and for all.

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When Nero Wolfe is asked to see a New York theater director at the behest of a fellow orchid lover, Lewis Hewitt, Wolfe's first response is No.  But then through Archie, his right-hand man, he is told to tell Wolfe these two words: Grammangis spectabilis.  With those two words, Wolfe has a new case on his hands, and Archie has a new assignment.

To wit:  Roy Breckenridge, the theater director in question, feels his life is being threatened, and all because of contention among his cast.  He asks Wolfe to investigate and find out which one of the cast members is causing the strife among them all; and to this end, it is decided that Archie will pose as a Canadian magazine writer who is interested in the play and its cast, for his publication.  But unfortunately for everyone involved, his charade does not go according to plan.  While posing undercover, someone murders Breckenridge while Archie is at the theater, not only ending his assignment, but effectively removing him from the case.  Therefore, Wolfe has only one option left:  Saul Panzer, whom he is sure can get to the crux of the matter and, by bringing the principals before Wolfe to interrogate, discover who the guilty party is.

With the cooperation of Mr. Hewitt, and a little help from newsman Lon Cohen, Wolfe sets to work not only to discover Mr. Breckenridge's murderer, but to do so in order to obtain what his heart desires: rare Madagascar orchids that are now in Mr. Hewitt's possession but Wolfe wishes to be his.  What follows is another masterful mystery involving the brilliant mind of Nero Wolfe, and the sharp wit of Archie Goodwin.

I cannot put into words how much I enjoy these mysteries, first started by the late Rex Stout and carried on beautifully by Robert Goldsborough; whose own voice speaks to us just the same.  He has given us another thought-provoking mystery - this time involving the New York theater and the personal egos of its members - and done so in such a lively way that it is indeed easy to get involved in the story quickly and stay there through the end.  In fact, one becomes so involved that in trying to decipher Mr. Wolfe's nuances you are never quite able to do so; and when he solves the crime (as we know he will) you are as surprised as anyone else.

This, my friends, is what a true mystery is about, and how it indeed should always be.  Nero Wolfe is one of a kind, a man with a brilliant mind who knows it to be true; who is haughty and unconcerned about the wants of others, but who values Archie and his staff, even if he does not show it.  He appreciates beauty and true friendship, all the while keeping himself aloof and unemotional  He is able to solve whatever crime is put before him effortlessly, and it is a pleasure to watch him do so.  This is a sparkling mystery full of intrigue and secrets, and I eagerly await the next in the series.  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Murder-Stage-Left-Wolfe-Mysteries/dp/1504041119/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1867240467

More on Robert Goldsborough's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/g/robert-goldsborough/

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