The League of Frightened Men, by Rex Stout

My Copy: 0553259334 (image from pinterest)

I’ve read a few dozen Nero Wolfe novels and novellas so far, and this is one I barely remembered. I mean, I knew I read it, but it didn’t leave much of an impression on me, apparently.

Well, now I have an idea why. I thought the setup was interesting, but the payoff…that one was a bit tricky to appreciate. And I tried, because I love Wolfe and Archie, but it felt anticlimactic in a way.

The League of Frightened Men is a Nero Wolfe mystery about a group of men that are afraid they’re going to be killed. The one to do it: Paul Chapin, a man they went to university with who was mangled in a hazing prank 20 years before. They–the League of Atonement–did their best to make amends, but Chapin has been known to have a vicious streak, through his writings and general outlook on life. When a couple of their number end up dead, and one missing and presumed dead, the League consults Wolfe to help keep the rest of them alive however possible.

It’s a complex story, with Archie, private detectives and the NYPD (including their frenemy, Cramer) pounding the pavement and bumping into each other everywhere. They are all keeping track of Chapin and trying to figure out how he might be killing these men, and can keep taunting Wolfe and the League all the while.

I love how we get into Wolfe and Archie’s partnership a little deeper. There is some physical peril for our heroes (though each man’s differing definition of “peril” certainly shines here), and the tete-a-tete is wonderful to read. And the confrontations/ conversations between Chapin and Wolfe are worth re-reading, because there’s so much in them.

Stout doesn’t disappoint me when it comes to voicing his characters. I was just a little bummed that after all that buildup, the ending turned out the way it did. Felt a little off.

Anyway, I have to say this particular mystery wasn’t my cup of tea, but it could be yours. Have fun and happy deducing!

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