I read this book about 2-Sep-2001. This is the first time I've read this book. The book is copyright 1955. This note was last modified Thursday, 19-Dec-2002 16:36:10 PST.
This note contains spoilers for the book.
Given the copyright, it can't have been intended as a final novel. Perhaps it's a tax story. I don't recall having read it before.
Strange glitch; on page 24, there's a reference to Archie getting the "1961 Heron" (automobile) that Wolfe owns. In a story with a 1955 copyright. The hardcover edition (Viking) seems to have been first issued in 1961, the paperback in 1962 (and this one is a 1968 printing), so presumably they wanted to update the date for the book publication. The ways of publishers are strange and inscrutable.
Wow! I was right, it is a tax story! A woman and her husband plot a kidnapping (of the husband), and pay the ransom, figuring to deduct it and recover 85% of the amount, plus having the ransom money still secretly. Makes good sense, at that sort of tax rates. Although Stout does carefully have Wolfe say he doesn't know if the ransom would in fact be deductible.
Some nice twists and turns; and once again the mother character turns out to be the murderer. Between that and Wolfe's attitude towards women, one almost starts to wonder if something is going on.
This one has the Archie-Wolfe relationship in fine form, too.