My Copy: 9780553763010 (image from bn.com)
This has to be one of the most complicated cases I’ve read so far in the Nero Wolfe universe. There are so many characters and so many angles to the case that if you’re just skimming through, you’re going to miss a lot (and it’s not that long a book, so you shouldn’t skim anyway).
Anyhoo, the basics revolve around three sisters, the Hawthornes, who are apparently famous for being Hawthornes in the sense that they’re all quite brilliant in some way, like art or the sciences. Somehow, when their brother Nate died, despite promises to help them out with his fortune, they each got a piece of fruit while a woman he wasn’t married to was to get the bulk of his money, many millions of dollars. This doesn’t surprise but infuriates his widow because he essentially scarred her for life and deserves some compensation.
When you get reading, yeah, you can see why she’d feel that way. Though at the same time, I’d love to know more about the dead man–if there’s any failing to this book, it’s that I didn’t feel like I got to know enough about him, about why he might treat people a certain way and whether or not he actually cared about his wife and family.
Trying to deal with the will is Nero Wolfe’s initial concern, in the sense that the family wants him to negotiate with the “other woman” to take less and not create a scandal. This becomes a back-burner issue when they all get a visit from the district attorney and find that there’s proof Nate was actually murdered instead of an accidental death. Then some of the family hire him to find the murder and minimize the scandal that will come to them.
As it turns out, there’s considerable scandal that can be revealed.
I have to say, this was an interesting case, though it felt a bit dragged out just because of the little info coming through. Nero Wolfe is feeling out of sorts on this one, and of course, so is Archie. It’s funny how in this one, Nero actually ends up leaving his comfortable house to question the people involved.
Maybe that’s why things took so long…but it made for quite the setup and the “aha” moments in my noggin when remembering clues.
Worth a shot if you like “cozies,” especially.