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Book Note: Rex Stout, The Broken Vase

I read this book about 31-May-2002. This is the first time I've read this book. The book is copyright 1941. This note was last modified Thursday, 19-Dec-2002 16:35:48 PST.

This note contains spoilers for the book.


This is a Tecumseh Fox mystery, not part of the more famous Nero Wolfe series. Even though it manages to refer to Wolfe on the cover in type just as large, and higher on the page.

I really mean it about the spoilers.

It's interesting that the two detectives seem to live largely in the same New York. There's even a Rusterman's in both. But I've never noticed a cross-reference between characters. I'm pretty sure the polic mentioned don't overlap, for example. And the clubs that Archie favors don't seem to get much mention in the Fox books.

This book begins with the most horrendously cruel murder scenario I've ever read about. A young man, a promising violinist, is driven to commit suicide by sabotaging his violin (an especially fine Stradivarius bought for him by a consortium of patrons) just before he goes on stage. Varnish is poured into the body, which ruins the tone. He discovers the damage when he starts to play, and has to go through the first half of his performance sounding horrible despite his best efforts. He goes back to the dressing room at the intermission and kills himself.

(I think he actually discovered the damage earlier; he's shown as unreasonably tense before going on stage. This makes sense, because while I wouldn't expect him to practice seriously in the last hour, I would expect him to tune just before going out.)

The level of irreplacable property damage is horrendous, including the violin, and a 5-color Ming vase said to be one of the finest of its type known.

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David Dyer-Bennet