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I'm a grad student, an avid reader, a huge nerd, fervent roleplayer, wife, cat lover, tea snob, and obsessive keeper of lists.
Fer-de-Lance/The League of Frightened Men - Rex Stout To be precise, 3 stars for Fer-de-Lance and 4 for The League of Frightened Men.

Nero Wolfe books are always a great pleasure to read, and the wonder is that it's taken me so long to get back to them. There were always a bunch around when I was growing up, but they aren't something I've returned to as an adult as much as I have to, say, John D. MacDonald. As mysteries, they're entertaining, but much of the pleasure lies in the world Rex Stout creates for his main character, the insular haven to which people must bring him problems, and which he rarely ever leaves.

Of course, for that he has Archie Goodwin, womanizing leg-man, who is sent out on what seem to him nonsensical errands that somehow always lead Nero Wolfe to the bad guy. Not that Wolfe is interested in catching the bad guy for the sake of justice. Oh, no. For that, son, he's got to get paid. In fact, in both these books, Wolfe makes deals that, if they panned out the way they were offered, would shield a murderer from justice, as long as Wolfe gets his money.

Of course, it never works out that way, and he and Archie Goodwin teach the cops how to do their business, in between daily orchid-tending and eating world-class food.

Of the two, Fer-de-Lance, the first ever published, is decidedly the weaker, as the murderer is revealed fairly early on, and the snake doesn't make an appearance till near the end. When the blurb on the back promises me that in the midst of an investigation that some unknown adversary will send Nero Wolfe a deadly snake, I wanted that snake earlier, dammit! And to come with some mystery about who had sent it.

The second, The League of Frightened Men, was far better. The mystery started to click, and the twists were less obvious. Threatening (and terrible) poems are sent to a group of men, claiming responsibility for unsolvable deaths, and threatening vengeance. The men are certain they know who's behind it. But can Wolfe find the proof?

Well, of course he can. What were you expecting? The real mystery is, what could possibly entice Nero Wolfe to leave his home voluntarily?