Homicide Trinity (Nero Wolfe, #36)

By Rex Stout, Stephen Greenleaf

2,627 ratings - 4.2* vote

Nero Wolfe attempts to find the killer who murdered his victim with Wolfe's own necktie, and he encounters a list of bizarre suspects, including a gun-toting wife and a cop-hating landlady. Nero Wolfe attempts to find the killer who murdered his victim with Wolfe's own necktie, and he encounters a list of bizarre suspects, including a gun-toting wife and a cop-hating landlady.

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Book details

Paperback, 224 pages
July 1st 1993 by Crimeline

(first published April 26th 1962)

Original Title
Homicide Trinity (Crime Line)
ISBN
0553234463 (ISBN13: 9780553234466)
Edition Language
English

Community Reviews

Bill Kerwin


Among mystery writers, Rex Stout stands out for four things: 1) devising the second most memorable eccentric detective genius, 2) creating--in Archie Goodwin--the breeziest, most deceptively effortless first-person narrative voice in detective fiction, 3) fathering the single greatest crime-solving pair (although Holmes wins out slightly over Wolfe, Goodwin beats Watson hands down), and 4) being the absolute master of the 25,000 word detective novella.

These three novellas are among Stouts finest. The first involves a prospective client strangled with Wolfe's necktie, the second features two identical guns and a mysterious strongbox, and the third introduces us to Hattie Annis, a crusty, cop-hating landlady who is one of the most vivid of Stout's incidental creations. If possible, read each in one sitting. Enjoy.

Evgeny

The anthology consists of three novellas:

Eeny Meeny Murder Mo.
There were several times before when a dead body was found in or around Wolfe's home: one time on the front steps, and another was right in his office. Both times the detective took it as a great personal insult. Imagine his reaction when a dead body not only made a surprise appearance in his office, but his own necktie was used to strangle the victim.
necktie
Nothing - and I do mean nothing - will stop him from getting the villain before the police does.

Usually Wolfe is fairly impersonal in his investigations, but in this case he gloated at the murderer when he finally nailed him/her. The last page of the story contains a priceless scene. Suffice to say it left wisecracking Archie Goodwin speechless - most probably the first time in his life.

Death of a Demon.
A woman became obsessed with shooting her husband.
gun
Her solution? She went to Nero Wolfe and paid him for just listening to her about this with the promise that in case her husband is really shot he would disclose the conversation to the police. His reasoning was she would not want to do it as in this case she would not be able to avoid being caught. There is a really big hole in this logic which Wolfe spotted right away. Later events confirmed his arguments.

Wolfe uses interesting psychological play to uncover the culprit.

Counterfeit for Murder
An old unattractive lady came to Wolfe for consultation. Usually this is not the type of people who need his services considering the fees for said services, but Archie Goodwin decided to teach his boss a lesson and let her in.
gun
Before both detectives knew it they had a dead body, a bunch of counterfeit money, pissed off police, and equally pissed off Secret Service (Department of Treasury) on their hands.

As I mentioned usually Wolfe's clients are very rich and most of the time not very nice people. This time he finally had a client I was able to sympathize with. I actually hoped the first dead body to make an appearance would not be hers. Imagine you have an old aunt, slightly batty but very nice nonetheless.

As usual for any book of the series my final rating is 4 stars.

Jim

A triple treat. Three novellas. Three damsels in distress. Three opportunities to visit the famous brownstone on West 35th Street, home of Nero Wolfe.

Eeny Meeny Murder Mo:
In this story the murder takes place in Wolfe's own home. In his office. With his own necktie! Wolfe got a spot on his necktie took it off and left it on his desk before heading upstairs for his session with his orchids. Archie and Fritz discussed whose responsibility it was to remove the tie from his desk and agreed it wasn't theirs. A woman, Bertha Aaron, rings the doorbell and wants to talk with Wolfe. She does not have an appointment. That is not going be easy so Archie takes her into the office to get a few details. She is a legal secretary for the senior lawyer at a small firm. They represent a husband in a high profile divorce. A few days ago she saw one of the members of the firm meeting with the client’s wife. Because this is highly unethical she concluded he was betraying the firm’s interest. She is afraid to tell her boss because he is elderly and has a bad heart. Archie leaves her in the office to go up to the orchid room to explain the situation to Wolfe and why this is not a divorce case. When he returns to office she is on the floor, dead, with Wolfe's necktie wrapped around her throat. Wolfe comes down to the office shortly after expecting to find her gone and sit in his custom made chair. Wolfe is incensed. A murder in his own home! He undertakes to find out which member of the law firm is guilty before the police. No one insults Wolfe by committing a murder under his roof.

Death of a Demon:
A woman, Lucy Hazen, has an appointment with Wolfe. She only needs 30 minutes to talk for which she will pay $100. At the meeting she takes out a gun and tells Wolfe that it is not the gun she will shoot her husband with. She believes that if there is a record of her saying so and he winds up shot no one will believe she did it. With ten minutes still left in her appointment she asks if she can see the orchids. While Lucy and Wolfe are up in the plant rooms Archie turns on the news. Yep … her husband was found shot to death. It seems that her husband was a blackmailer and there are many people who wanted him dead. It is up to Wolfe, and Archie, to find the real murderer before Inspector Cramer locks up Lucy.

Counterfeit for Murder
An interesting client. Not the usual client with deep pockets. Hattie Annis shows up on the steps of brownstone. She calls Wolfe "Falstaff" and Archie "Buster". She is a landlady who owns a rooming house in the theatre district. She turns over a package to Archie that she found in her rooming house. It is counterfeit money. She doesn't like cops because one shot her father years ago. Therefore she is giving it to Archie (and Wolfe). When Archie goes to Hattie's rooming house he finds a woman dead in the room where Hattie found the counterfeit money. Tammy Baxter wasn't just an actress renting a room. She was an undercover Treasury agent investigating a counterfeiting ring. I had to laugh when I read how after finding Tammy's body Hattie locks herself in her room and refuses to talk to the police. She will only talk to "Buster". The police have to break down her door and carry her out. Even then she refuses to say a word. Needless to say she has Wolfe's admiration.

JZ

Of course, the A&E tv series has affected my perception of the first story. I am forever, in my puny lifetime, grateful to Timothy Hutton for bringing my imaginings of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin to glorious life.

The first story in this trinity, which is a trademark of Rex Stout, (three stories in one volume with a clue that there are three enclosed) was made into one of the excellent series starring Maury Chakin and Himself, with their lawyer, Nathaniel Parker, played by George Plimpton and Bill Smitrovitch as Inspector Cramer. It was interesting to me how the male roles had dedicated actors, and the women, not so much.

But I digress.

The first story was interesting, and the second moreso, because another woman becomes a client, and the third, for the same, kind of, reason.

Within, some of Stout's richest dialogue and wit are on display. This is the height of his power. A pleasant reassurance of his power after having read his final book in the series recently, which was such a bitter disappointment.

Bryan Brown

This is a collection of shorter stories. I read this and two other Nero Wolfe books (and a Jim Butcher book) in a weekend reading frenzy and didn't review any of them.

However, the final story in this volume is a stand out story well worth your time to look it up. It features Archie at his very best. Not just his usual urbane wit, but he provides a major portion of the thinking that leads to the final conclusion of the mystery.

John

I was recently reading a rave about Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe stories on the blog of a crime-fiction enthusiast whose views I regard highly, and it reminded me it's been quite a few years since last I read any Stout. Yes, I know he's a darling of the critics, but for some reason I've never been able to regard his work highly.

So here I am with Homicide Trinity in front of me, attempting to mend the error of my ways.

Ho hum.

It's a collection of three novellas, and between them the three reminded me of why I've never been able to get overly enthused about Stout's fiction. It's not that I dislike the character of Wolfe (although I do), it's that the necessarily circumscribed arena in which much of the main action takes place -- Wolfe's NYC house, because he refuses to leave it except under duress -- and the similar limitation on the action itself, Wolfe being a man of inviolable habit, mean that the stories tend to be a bit samey. That's certainly true of the first two stories here, in which a small cast of suspects find themselves being interviewed by Wolfe, the guilt of the relevant party being revealed through their responses.

Somewhat the same template is observed in the third story, "Counterfeit for Murder," yet for some reason I enjoyed it far more -- perhaps because in it Archie Goodwin, Wolfe's Watson, discovers that he can like a woman who isn't young and short of skirt. The woman concerned, Hattie Annis, is the scruffy middle-aged owner of a downtown boarding house where she lets rooms to theatrical types, charging them rent if they can afford it, and she's discovered in her little-used parlor a stash of counterfeit money. The solution to the mystery's a bit crapola, to be honest -- and flies, for no explained reason, into the teeth of an earlier-planted clue -- but the character of Hattie is so glorious that I didn't much care. Pfui, in other words.

So, read this for "Counterfeit for Murder," is my advice. The other two are pleasant enough pieces, but hardly essential reading.

Pamela Shropshire

Eeny Meeny Murder Mo
Wolfe gets a spot on his necktie and removes it, laying it on his desk. Archie and Fritz confer on whose responsibility it is to remove the offending tie, but each agrees they are not responsible. Meanwhile, a woman rings the bell of the brownstone one morning and says she needs to talk to Wolfe. Of course it isn’t that easy, so Archie gets a few details. She is Bertha Aaron, legal secretary for the senior lawyer at a small firm. They represent a man in his divorce. A few days earlier, Miss Aaron saw one of the members of the firm in a meeting with the client’s wife. Because this is highly unethical behavior, Miss Aaron concluded the attorney was betraying the firm’s interest. She says she can’t tell her boss, because he is elderly and has a bad heart.

All readers of the adventures of Wolfe & Archie know that Wolfe will not touch divorce work. Archie feels this issue is distinguishable from a divorce investigation. He leaves Miss Aaron in Wolfe’s office and goes up to the plant rooms to try to convince Wolfe to see her. It’s no go, so Archie goes back to tell her Wolfe won’t see her. Miss Aaron is lying on the rug with Wolfe’s soiled necktie tightly around her neck. Alive, Miss Aaron was a nuisance to be rid of; dead, she is a stain upon Wolfe’s escutcheon. To regain his self-respect, he must expose the murderer even though it makes Cramer livid.

This is one of several “law-related” cases, and as a paralegal, I always enjoy these. 4 stars.

Death of a Demon
A woman makes an appointment with Wolfe, saying she just needs 30 minutes of his time and that she just needs to tell him something; for this she will pay him $100. At the appointment, she pulls out a gun, a .32 revolver, and announces that this is the gun she will not shoot her husband with. She goes on to say that she has discovered she despises her husband, that she found a gun in his desk and since then, she has obsessed over killing him with it. (Hey, I just read Crime and Punishment, so I believe it.) Anyway, she decided, after many sleepless nights, that if she told someone her idea, she wouldn’t actually carry it out. She makes Wolfe promise that if he hears her husband has been murdered, he will tell the police about her visit. She gives Wolfe a check for $100, so there will be a record of her payment.

Then since 10 minutes still are left of her 30, she asks to see the orchids. While she and Wolfe are on the roof, Archie turns on the news. You guessed it — her husband’s body has been found, shot to death with a .32 revolver.

This is one of the more interesting set-ups in the Wolfe canon. It turns out the murder victim was a blackmailer. Wolfe lays a clever trap to expose the murderer. 4 stars.

Counterfeit for Murder
The plot of this story isn’t that interesting — the murder of an undercover Treasury agent investigating a counterfeiting ring — but the client is a fascinating character. In fact, she quickly became one of my favorites of all of Wolfe’s clients.

It starts off like this: Archie is about to leave the brownstone to take a deposit to the bank. When he opens the door, a woman is on the stoop. I’ll let him describe her:

. . .when I looked through the one-way glass panel of the front door and saw her out on the stoop, my basic feelings about the opposite sex were hurt. Granting that women can’t stay young and beautiful forever, that the years are bound to show, at least they don’t have to let their gray hair straggle over their ears or wear a coat with a button missing or forget to wash their face, and this specimen was guilty on all three counts. So, as she put a finger to the button and the bell rang, I opened the door and told her, “I don’t want any, thanks. Try next door.“ I admit it was rude.

“I would have once, Buster,“ she said. “Thirty years ago I was a real treat.“


Now, on the face of it, Archie’s comments sound both sexist and ageist. But by the next page, after further conversation with the woman, whose name is Hattie Annis, Archie is, well, not smitten in the sense that we usually see him smitten, but Hattie has definitely made an impression on Archie.

I took [the package] because I liked her. She had fine instincts and no sense at all. She had refused to tell me what was in it, and was leaving it with me and telling me not to open it – my idea of a true woman if only she would comb her hair and wash her face and sew a button on.


Hattie turns out to be quite a character. She hates cops because one shot her father years earlier. She has her own ideas about things and life and cannot be convinced otherwise. She owns a run-down house near the theatre district and she takes in “stage people,” as she calls them, as roomers whether or not they can pay any rent. When the young female agent is murdered in Hattie’s house, Hattie locks herself in her room and refuses to let the police in. Archie tried to convince her that she has to talk to the police, but it’s no go. Even after the police bust in the door and carry her — literally — downtown to the station, she refuses to speak a single word. Even Wolfe develops a grudging respect for her, in spite of her calling him Falstaff (she continues to call Archie “Buster” for the entire story).

This one deserves 5 stars simply for the character that Rex Stout creates.

Jim

I definitely liked these the best. Short stories fit Nero Wolfe very well. All 3 cases were well done, interesting, & full of the quirkiness I expect of the series.

Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ...

This is my first introduction to Rex Stout and unfortunately it did not work for me. I found it far more dated than I hoped. The prose is clunky, the dialogue stereotypical, the main character a chauvinist. I didn't really enjoy this collection of three novellas enjoyable or interesting.

Stacie Haden

Rex Stout is the King. This one was a three in one, and they were all good. I dread the day I finish this "go to" series.

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