Rex Stout


The Second Confession

A Nero Wolf Mystery


In some ways this is an unusual Wolfe novel, although it hardly smashes any conventions. I did hope it might be a particularly dramatic episode with the early revelation of Wolfe’s Moriarty, Zeck, but a titanic encounter remains a tease. That being said, it’s nice that Stout has given this new dimension to the normally self-assured Wolfe, having him acknowledge fearing an opponent and – unlike your average super-sleuth – deliberately avoiding closing with a smart criminal.


The other potential departure from the usual ‘light-boiled’ crime is the political sub-plot. This reminded me that Wolfe was a popular author, so I suppose Communists in a 1949 story is no more surprising than terrorists turning up in something published in the early 21st century. 


Otherwise Archie sticks to character, flirting with heiresses and cracking wise with police officers. I can’t say I was really engaged with solving the mystery – despite gradual revelations along the way Stout tends to leave Wolfe with some information up his sleeve for his final revelations that the reader couldn’t know. I suspect a generation later Stout would have been ideal as a TV writer, turning out able weekly shows that never intended to soar but gave the pleasure of familiar characters and situations. 


August 2007