A visit with Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin at Wolfe's brownstone on West Thirty-Fifth Street is always a treat. These are nostalgic and light reads. As I write this review we are in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been a tough year. Someday someone may read this review and this will be history.
Published in 1959 this is the 32nd book in the series. The Book Publishers of America (BPA) and the National Association of Authors and Dramatists (NAAD) form a joint committee and hire Wolfe to investigate claims of plagiarism. In these cases the plagiarists are claiming that the well-known authors are stealing from them. "Plagiarism upside down" as Wolfe puts it. The plagiarists plant evidence to back up their claims. These claims have damaged both the publishers and the authors and the committee wants Wolfe's help in stopping the fraud.
There are four different claims that Wolfe is hired to investigate. His first step is to gather all the manuscripts. Wolfe fans know that he is an avid reader and after reading all the manuscripts he concludes that they were all written by the same person. This he says is based on aspects such as diction, punctuation, syntax and paragraphing.
A committee member suggests that one of the plagiarists be offered money, along with a guarantee of immunity, to identify the author of the manuscripts. The next day Archie goes to make the offer but finds Sergeant Purley Stebbins at the apartment. The plagarist has been murdered. This is followed by the murder of two more of the plagiarists. Wolfe blames himself for not taking steps to protect the plagiarists when they first planned to offer money for information. He is so angry that he tells Fritz "... I shall drink no beer until I get my fingers around that creature's throat".
There is only one plagiarist left. As is usual in these stories Wolfe gathers everyone together in the office in his brownstone where he will reveal the identity of the murderer. Rex Stout
draws on his experience with publishers, authors and the writing process itself. A fun and quick read and nice visit with some familiar characters