I had ordered The League Of Frightened Men, #2 in Stout's series but they shipped me The Rubber Band instead and when the mistake was pointed out I was told to keep the book and they gave me a full refund. The book was in fair to poor shape, a paperback, but the words were legible and that's what matters most of all. If I can read it then it's a good book, all things considered.
I don't know if I read any of the Nero Wolfe novels as a kid. I was living in Brazil from the ages of 11½ to 13 and no school, not many kids to play with and I had a ton of time on my hands, not always spent wisely. But one thing I did was read. I read well above my age level; Steinbeck, Hemingway, Christie and more than my share of cheap so called dime novels. Westerns, adventure, crime (my mother was aghast when she found out how lurid some of those crime novels were) and some history. If I didn't read any of Stout's novels I should have and now I'm making up for lost time.
I had heard of Nero Wolfe but I think my first introduction was the A&E series in 2001-2002, staring Maury Chaykin as Nero Wolfe and Timothy Hutton as Archie Goodwin. There was an ensemble cast who played various characters in the series which confused me the first couple of episodes that I watched but it didn't take long for me to catch on. And I loved the series.
So when I decided to read some of the older detective novels Stout was an author high on my list and after reading Fer-de-Lance I thought I was spot on in that placement. I still think so after reading The Rubber Band.
This novel is intricate in the plot with various twists and turns. It has Mr. Wolfe wondering until the end but (not a spoiler, everyone knows this) he eventually reveals the culprit.
The interaction of Goodwin with his boss, Wolfe, is always witty. The goings on in Wolfe's house is interesting to say the least, with Goodwin, Fritz the chef and all around handy guy and (the name escapes me for the moment) the botanist. They all live together in the multi storied mansion and eat well. Wolfe himself drinks well and often, but never to the point of inebriation. How he does that I don't know. Just reading about how much beer he consumes at a sitting makes me have to get up and visit the bathroom! And Archie sticks to milk with an occasional shot of Bourbon. The man can't be all bad with his love of two of my favorite drinks.
This story has a damsel in distress who is quite the charmer, an adventure in a past time involving a future British peer who, as time would have it, is currently that peer. We have a scoundrel, and I'm not talking abut the bad guy! Of course there are the cops and the lawyers and the various minions who work as Wolfe's leg men.
And then, as with all of the TV episodes I watched as well as the two books I've finished (more to come I assure you) Wolfe draws the crowd together and reveals the culprit. It's a classic ploy and Stout was a master at it. The language is of the period and the genre and at times a phrase will make you think but so far I've been able to figure them all out.
If you like classic detective stories, the proverbial who done its, don't pass on Stout. Enjoy a glass of milk or a shot of Bourbon with Archie, quaff a beer with Wolfe, enjoy one of Fritz's great repasts. But whatever you do, read and relive this time gone by. You'll be glad you did.