Monday, January 8, 2018

A Detective Fiction Forerunner

Fer-de-Lance (Nero Wolfe, #1)Fer-de-Lance by Rex Stout
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm givin' this sucka three stars, seeee?! Ya wanna make somethin' of it, tough guy?...Yeah, that's what I thought.

Actually, Fre-de-Lance by Rex Stout is more cerebral than tough-guy as far as detective fiction goes. Oh sure, there's some strong-arm scenes and a line like "Don't try no funny stuff, ya got me pal-y?" wouldn't be out of place here. However, as many of those you find, you'll discover just as many classical allusions and erudite quotables.

This is in great part due to the eccentric genius Nero Wolfe, who owns and operates the detective agency. However, he is too corpulent and immobile to be the true hero of the story. That mantle rests upon the able shoulders of regular good guy Archie Goodwin, the man on the street, the guy who gets the job done. Archie narrates the story and his witty one-liners and occasional snark are a great joy to read.

One of the early ones in the detective genre, Fer-de-Lance leaves the reader guessing who killed who and why. Very solid red herrings and perplexing twists abound. This book will satiate the mystery lover.

This why only three stars? Well, as one of the longer books in the Wolfe series, Fer-de-Lance lumbers along at a slower pace than necessary, adding more pages than are probably needed to tell this tale. But hey, this was back when Stout was just starting out and you can hardly be surprised when a new writer goes long. Plus, this being one of the early detective stories, he didn't have down pat the bebop-beat timing and double-time swinging pace that hardboiled detective fiction would eventually be known for.

Definitely worth giving it a shot!

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