Archie Meets Nero Wolfe: A Prequel to Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe Mysteries, by Robert Goldsborough

My Copy: 9781453270974 (image from bn.com)

Now, I have to admit, when I love a series and an author, I generally love that particular series as written by THAT author. Maybe I’m biased against other writers tackling a beloved series or character once the creator has retired or passed on, but I swear I’ll feel differently.

Maybe I’m afraid it will come off as just really well-made fanfiction.

Not comforting, because even crappy fanfiction seems to get published (The 50 Shades series ringing bells?)

On the other hand, when the widow gives their blessing, and the author is writing Nero Wolfe mysteries, while a winner of the Nero award for mystery writing…well, it’s worth giving a shot.

And besides, who knows what drafts of source material he was given to make this initial plot at least plausible?

Archie Meets Nero Wolfe is a well-told prequel, something I didn’t expect to like just because it’s not Rex Stout writing it…but I liked it. This Archie is 19 and it’s the Depression Era. He’s in New York trying to find work and ends up getting some security work, which doesn’t end so well, and meets some Homicide detectives in the NYPD. This leads him to soon meet Del Bascom of the Bascom Detective Agency. Since it’s the depression, there’s not much work and much money coming in, so Archie’s hired on for a limited basis and stipend.

Readers of the series already know that Del Bascom occasionally works with Nero Wolfe, and it’s a few weeks before Del is called in to help do the legwork and Archie comes along. They’re hired to help a rich man pass along ransom for his kidnapped son, but as it goes in the Nero Wolfe world, things aren’t so cut and dry. Even when the son comes home and the father is grateful and wants to drop it, Wolfe and the others won’t, because the kidnapping could well be an inside job at the man’s estate.

I like how this book takes its time getting us acquainted with Archie and the world he’s stepping into. It’s not quite as brisk as how Stout wrote it, but that’s because we have a different Archie. He’s on the edge of 20, (still narrating–heaven forbid that ever go away), new to the detective business, still developing his quick wit and sarcasm, and just meeting people we’ll become familiar with in canon. Since the title is Archie Meets Nero Wolfe, it makes sense that it would take a bit of time to get to that point, not the usual 2-3 pages to give the gist of the world and then voila, here’s the next investigation.

In this case, it works.

For a prequel by a different author, I’d give this a recommend. Dunno if I’d read the other works by Mr. Goldsborough…yet. I’ve got about 40 more books by Stout to get through first, then we’ll see.

But I’m keeping this one. It’ll be a good reminder and re-start for when I end Stout and want to go for more.

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