My Copy: 9780553261097 (image from bn.com)
The beauty of reading Nero Wolfe books is you don’t have to read them in any particular order. Sometimes there are some things that might seem jarring when you read them out of order, like “who’s this lady” or whatever, but they’re such minor characters oftentimes it doesn’t matter.
I’ve grown to love the WW2 stories, the ones written in between the author, Rex Stout’s, many contributions to patriotic efforts like radio programs, articles, war bond rallies, etc. In this, Nero Wolfe very much takes on the skin of his creator, the man’s patriotism. But Wolfe’s size and general physical laziness regarding work make the two stories in this book interesting.
Archie, his sarcastic and nimble legman, is in the Army but still remains stateside as liaison and remains in Nero Wolfe’s employ. Wolfe is big on serving their country, but as Archie’s been gone for some time, he tries to get back to New York and bumps into his occasional flame, Lily Rowan, who wants to hire Wolfe to help a friend of hers. Well, that friend ends up dead, but that’s to be expected. What Archie doesn’t understand (and the reason the Army sent him home) is that Wolfe is not acting like normal. He’s determined to go fight (all 1/6th or 1/7th of a ton) on the front lines and has changed his habits to lose the weight and make it happen.
The trouble is he’s as stubborn as ever, and it’s gonna take some tricky doing to make Wolfe get his brain back into investigation mode.
The other story involves a grenade that was given to Archie as a souvenir, which ends up in the death of an Army officer. Several men were in the room with the grenade previously and knew it was there because of a meeting, and there’s the idea that this officer may have been killed because of a murder investigation of another officer regarding the grenade’s development. It takes some maneuvering for Archie and Wolfe to figure out why the receptionist is involved and to what capacity, and the real reason for the man’s death.
Pretty good stories. I just love how much it delves into the more personal aspects of Wolfe than other books have.