FFB: Where There’s A Will

this is the 89th in my series of forgotten or seldom read books

Where There’s A Will by Rex Stout © 1940, Bantam Books 1975 mass market paperback, mystery, Nero Wolfe

It’s been a while since I read any Nero Wolfe. No reason other than there is so much to read and as much as I always enjoy the Wolfe stories I was focused on other things. But I read Marvin Kaye’s The Nero Wolfe Files, a collection of articles from the Wolfe Pack Gazette, and that fired my resolve to read more Wolfe. This is the oldest, based on publication chronology, that I hadn’t read.

This one started slowly, or rather plenty happened from the first page, but I didn’t much like the clients, their reasons for seeing Wolfe, or any of it. I found myself wishing he’d toss them out, but knew he wouldn’t because Archie has told us the bank account is dangerously low. So Wolfe does something unusual: he takes a case involving a contested will.

It didn’t take many pages before I was fully involved with the story, back in the Brownstone with the familiar characters and perfectly happy to be there. Not unexpectedly a death by accident is found to be a murder, complications arise, the suspects are multiple and motives are rife. A second murder both eliminates a suspect and adds a new one. Classic Wolfe, and I enjoyed every page, even the somewhat abrupt ending. I guess I’ve gotten used to a bit more of an after, more of a conclusion wrap-up. No matter, this was a very enjoyable book and I’ll be moving on to the next in the series that I’ve yet to read, The Silent Speaker.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

The rest of the Friday Forgotten Book posts
can be found at Patti Abbott’s blog Pattinaise

About Richard Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
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10 Responses to FFB: Where There’s A Will

  1. I have about a dozen that I have that I haven’t read yet and an even smaller group that I don;t own copies. Now you’re going to make me go hunting as I don’t possess a copy of this one. Thanks for the review.

  2. Jeff Meyerson says:

    This was the first Stout book I read, back in 1972. I believe it was in the Avon Classic Crime Collection series.

  3. Never read a Rex Stout, I don’t think. Never got into a lot of mysteries of this type.

  4. I read and wrote about the entire Nero Wolfe series while DAPA-EM was still operating. My favorite Wolfe novel is THE GOLDEN SPIDERS. I think the best books were published in the Fifties. I’m sure Art Scott, who’s read the entire Wolfe Saga fifty or sixty times, would have more insight into the series.

  5. Art Scott says:

    One problem with Will is that the solution depends on a photographic clue, which may have been provided in the original magazine serialization, but is absent in the books. Stout later re-used the same idea in the novella, Easter Parade. Still, this is good mid-range Stout, though I think you’ll find Silent Speaker superior.

    George, I’d say it’s a flatfooted tie between the ’40s classics like Some Buried Caesar & Too Many Cooks, and the ca. 1950 titles like Golden Spiders, Murder By the Book and And Be a Villain.

  6. . I read all of them when I was in my twenties and have not revisited. Glad to hear they hold up.

  7. Layson says:

    Where There’s A Will has the reputation of being the worst Wolfe mystery, supposedly because of some sloppy writing and very sloppy plotting. It’s always been hard to find in pb because of this.
    The good news, Rich, is that The Silent Speaker is regarded as one of Stout’s best.

    Btw, Some Buried Caesar & Too Many Cooks were printed in the 30’s. Two outstanding reads. Of course there were plenty of high quality Wolfe books that came out in the 50’s as well.

  8. Art Scott says:

    A long way from worst, when there are late embarrassments like Death of a Dude & (especially) Please Pass the Guilt in the canon.

  9. Layson says:

    Those two later Wolfe novels certainly have their detractors. (especially PPtG) I’m simply noting that Where There’s A Will has always been the most maligned book in the canon, and was very hard to find in pb until the Rex Stout Library version came out.

  10. Richard says:

    I try not to pan to death anything I review, but I think it came through that I liked this one a lot less than I usually enjoy a Nero Wolfe book. Haven’t started the next one yet.

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