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Book Note: Rex Stout, Black Orchids

I read this book about 14-Apr-2003. I've read this book before. The book is copyright 1941. This note was last modified Wednesday, 03-Mar-2004 11:13:44 PST.

This note contains spoilers for the book.

 

Two stories, rather than three, for a change, and without the number "two" in the title. How Wolfe acquired the black orchids (by blackmail or as a fee, from Hewitt), and one thing he did with some of them (sent 8 of them to a funeral).

From one of the better periods, I think. Just pre-war (or at least before Stout stopped writing for the war).

"Black Orchids" is quite extreme in lots of ways. A scene is carefully constructed where Archie, at Wolfe's orders, takes the action that causes a gun to fire and commit the murder. None of them have any clue at the time. (A walking stick, tied by string to the trigger of the gun. Pulls the trigger, then breaks the string, without displacing the gun, and without Archie noticing especially. I don't believe it for a second, actually.) And ends spectacularly with Wolfe arranging for the murderer to kill himself in a booby-trap that he springs by attempting to kill Wolfe, Archie, Cramer, and others (with Ciphogene, which I mostly remember from The Mote in God's Eye (#2)

Cordially Invited to Meet Death is interesting in some ways. I especially like the bit where Archie follows the chemist making off with the turf sample Archie had intended to take himself -- and finds the guy taking it to Wolfe back at the house. And I'm reminded how much medicine has improved; tetanus was fatal once it reached the nerves, and while there was an anti-toxin, there was no vaccination. Two people die of it during the book, one a murder (cleverly substituting tetanus infusion for iodine).


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David Dyer-Bennet