The Rubber Band (Nero Wolfe, #3)

By Rex Stout

3,252 ratings - 4.07* vote

What do a Wild West lynching and a respected English nobleman have in common? On the surface, absolutely nothing. But when a young woman hires his services, it becomes Nero Wolfe’s job to look deeper and find the connection. A forty-year-old pact, a five-thousand-mile search, and a million-dollar murder are all linked to an international scandal that could rebound on the g What do a Wild West lynching and a respected English nobleman have in common? On the surface, absolutely nothing. But

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Book details

Paperback, 208 pages
April 1st 1995 by Bantam

(first published April 9th 1936)

Original Title
The Rubber Band
0553763091 (ISBN13: 9780553763096)
Edition Language

Community Reviews


Rex Stout in "The Rubber Band" gives the reader a misadventure in Nevada in 1895, which has repercussions in New York City forty years later.

A fast moving plot.

Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂


I started with high expectations for this book, as the first chapter was absolutely hilarious!

Wolfe still paid no attention to me. As a matter of fact, I didn't expect him to, since he was busy taking exercise. He had recently got the impression he weighed too much- which was about the same as if the Atlantic Ocean had decided it was too wet...

& the revelation of the chief villain genuinely surprised me, but it was just too talky talky. Of course this is always a characteristic of this series, since the morbidly obese Wolfe never leaves the house, but this time Archie doesn't move around much as Wolfe decides to have other minions do the leg work. & a tad too many characters.

Still an enjoyable romp.


Nero Wolfe (and by extension Archie Goodwin) is engaged in a boring case of stolen money from a company's executive desk while he is offered another case. This one is looks much more exciting. Its background reminds of a typical Western: Wild West settings, a guy who is about to be hanged, a last-minute rescue, a horse chase and a promise of a big monetary reward which remained unpaid by the time Nero Wolfe heard about it - almost fifty years later. It escalates very quickly from here.

This book features a good mystery in addition to great characters. Speaking about the latter, all of the recurring characters of the series finally show up: these include Inspector Cramer, Sergeant Purley Stebbins, Lieutenant George Rowcliff, and Orrie Cather; the latter was only mentioned in the previous books. These guys make a fine addition to the colorful cast.

Nero Wolfe has to hide his clients from time to time to save them from their enemies and from their untimely meeting with the police (he likes to arrange his own timing for such meetings). This book features one of the best ways in to hide a person right under the noses of a police squad doing a methodical search of Wolfe's house for the person in question.

Great characters and a very good mystery which kept me guessing until the end give this book well-deserved 4.5 stars.

This review is a copy/paste of my BookLikes one:

Jill Hutchinson

I took a break and decided to re-read my favorite detective, Nero Wolfe. You can expect that all books in this 40+ series will get five stars from me since the characters fascinate me. The author was not always particularly strong with his story lines, except for a few, but it is not the stories that started my obsession with Nero Wolfe, but instead, it is the interaction of the characters. The relationship and conversations between Wolfe and his right-hand man, Archie, are a joy to read since Stout had a wonderful way with words.

In this novelette, a young woman hires Wolfe to find five men who were friends of her deceased father who had entered into an oath to share money if they struck it rich in the gold fields of the western United States. It has been 25 years since the oath was signed and Wolfe has his work cut out for him. In the process, two of the men are murdered and it becomes incumbent on Wolfe to catch the killer without leaving the comfort of his home. A typical Wolfe story but as always, an interesting one. There is somewhat of a cult around these books and I am a part of it!

Gary Sundell

Among the firsts in this book, the third in the series:
Wolfe's exercise program.
Sgt. Stebbins tagging along with Inspector Cramer on a visit to Wolfe's brownstone.
I don't recall the use of pfui by Wolfe in the first two books. It appears in this book.

Cramer is still smoking a pipe at times and again refers to Archie as "sonny". Cramer hasn't jelled completely yet.

Deb Jones

In only the loosest sense are the t Nero Wolfe books a series. Though they are numbered sequentially, that is more so for the time frame of each title's publication and the time era of the story. In every other way, these books can be read as stand-alones without missing anything critical to the enjoyment or understanding of the book in hand.


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.


Rex Stout combined the hard-boiled detective of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler with the intellectual master-detective of the Sherlock Holmes stories and came up with a most winning formula for his long series of Nero Wolfe books. While Wolfe cogitates without leaving his home, his legman Archie Goodwin handles the tough guy stuff, as well as the narration. The Wolfe books are extraordinarily entertaining, and THE RUBBER BAND is one of the best. It deals with the collection of a debt owed a disparate group of people from many years before and the murders that arise when that debt isn't paid. Stout so perfectly combines the elements most loved about the Holmes and the hard-boiled dick stories, and he creates such a richly familiar environment, that the scores of novels he wrote never grow boring or common. And his plotting is so intricate that one wonders how he was able to achieve such intricacy over and over again. But he does, and just about every Wolfe book is a wealth of entertainment.

Elizabeth (Alaska)

Nero Wolfe novels are just plain fun and I should read more of them. I'm glad I read the first in the series first, as Stout introduced his characters there, but I think the rest of the them can be read in pretty much any order. At least that is the premise I'm going to operate under.

Only Nero Wolfe and his assistant Archie Goodwin are more than caricatures. I will probably always picture them as the actors who played them in the TV series. Wolfe commands a wide network of operators. Though mostly we know only their names, I suspect if I were to read more of these closer together, I would find that they have different strengths, and maybe even a bit of personality. The characters who present the mystery are, surprisingly, somewhat better seen than those operatives. We don't always know what Wolfe is thinking, and we don't always have all of the clues to solve the mystery ourselves. I didn't care. These are told in the first person by Archie, so we always only know what Archie knows. The dynamic between Wolfe and Archie is just too good to fret over what I'll be told later.

The cadence of the prose isn't what I think of as pure noir, but I can't help thinking of it as having a tinge of noir. And it's funny, which isn't really noir at all, of course. If looks could kill, she would at least be a very sick woman. I thoroughly enjoyed this. The genre could never get more than 4 stars from me. This hovers at the line between 3- and 4-stars.

Bookish Indulgenges with b00k r3vi3ws

The Rubber Band is another intricately woven plot that introduces a couple of new characters.

As usual, the Wolfe household is in a state, but for a change our protagonists are already working on a case while another interesting case falls into their laps. From money stolen from a desk to a last minute rescue of a man heading to the noose to a beautiful new client whose charms work wonders… this case has it all. But what can a fifty year old lynching case have to do with the present? And will Nero be able to handle all the police interference?

This time Nero has more people he can get to do all the legwork for him. As such Archie is in the Brownstone for most parts and it makes for a different kind of entertainment. Archie and Nero’s relationship is the cause of half the humour in the books. I love their dynamics and their banter and as usual they are up to it again. Also, there’s a particular situation in this book where the police search Nero’s house, and without giving any spoilers, it was a brilliant moment on the book.

This is a slow burn sort of a book. It takes a while for the actual plot to take off, but there is plenty in the meantime to keep the reader engaged. The plot in this one is complex and there are quite a few red herrings left along the way for the readers. I almost missed out on the whodunit myself.

All in all, another entertaining book in a series that is yet to disappoint me.