And Be a Villain - Rex Stout, Maan Meyers I am in the process of rereading (listening to the perfectly matched Michael Pritchard) many of the Rex Stout Nero Wolfe/Archie Goodwin mysteries. They hold up very well; in fact, as each novel takes place contemporaneous to its writing, many could be considered period pieces. And be a Villain takes place in 1948 so there are no cell phones, everything is typed, etc. Commercials were done live on the radio, and that features prominently in the mystery as one of the murders is committed on-the-air during a live broadcast, the featured product being spiked with cyanide.

The usual marvelous characters are in place: Inspector Cramer, Fritz (the incomparable cook,) Sgt. Stebbins, and delightfully the Asst. police commissioner O’Hara who, because the case is high-profile insist on horning in. (“Wolfe said to tell you. you’re a nincompoop but I’m too polite to mention it.”) For those not familiar with the series, Nero Wolfe (pay absolutely no attention to the execrable TV series with Timothy Hutton and Maury Chaykin - they make me gag) is an enormously fat and brilliant detective who never leaves his house (well, almost never) and his wise-cracking side-kick, Archie who follows Wolfe’s directions and reports conversations verbatim.

The language is precise and clever replete with comments such as “Someday, sir, you’ll get on the wrong train by trying to board yours before it arrives,” and “there was no finger pointed without wavering,” and finding a solution by “tramping down the improbabilities.”

One could argue that the books are formulaic and I suppose they are, but when you have such a perfect combination, what’s not to enjoy?