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Champagne for One

de Rex Stout

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Sèrie: Nero Wolfe (31)

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Nero Wolfe traces tainted champagne to a subtle killer.
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I've read six or seven Nero Wolfe novels over the last six months, and generally I've enjoyed them. They're easy and mostly pretty entertaining. I've always felt like genre fiction was enjoyable more for its plot than for its style, and I've tended to feel like I'd go to literature you might call capital-L Literature for my appreciation of style. But the more I think of it, the more I think this isn't the case at all for somebody like Stout (and, by extension, I suppose for others doing similar things, even within genre fiction).

The Nero Wolfe novels are usually pretty predictably plotted (if at times outlandishly plotted in their details). Something happens to drag Wolfe into a case and either he assembles a room full of people around him in a set piece denouement or he ventures out against his better judgment (for some purpose other than work) and solves a case that allows him to return to the comfort of his orchid room and his rigid schedule. That's the basic plot of all the novels I've read so far. Sure, some details change -- Archie makes wisecracks at different people, or there's a lacquered box or cyanide delivered in some different ghastly way -- but on the whole, the plotting itself isn't what's enjoyable about the books.

The characterization isn't all that interesting either. Wolfe is not a well-rounded character (well, he is rounded physically, I suppose, by Archie's estimation). Archie is pretty flat too. They are fun characters to live with, but they are not characters who develop meaningfully in any capital-L Literary way, and this is what I mean when I say that there's not much to the characterization.

But still, there's something about these novels that really appeals to me, and I think it's got to be some sense of style. There's something about the particular way Stout writes the books that makes me want to read them; it is not either the plotting or the depth of characterization; it is something about the interplay of the characters, though, and I suppose it's something about the consistency of that interplay -- which is to say that there's a sense of a distinct style to these novels. And this style reaches beyond anything I would ever previously have thought of as capital-S Style, and this means that my tendency to sort of sneer at genre fiction as not capital-L Literary and thus maybe not entirely worth my attention is misguided and snooty (heck, maybe downright Wolfeian).

All of which is to say, with respect to this book, that it is a Nero Wolfe book through and through and that I liked it (didn't love it), as it fits right into a very specific style that I've found I really enjoy, genre fiction or no. ( )
  dllh | Jan 6, 2021 |
Champagne For One (1959) (Nero Wolfe #31) by Rex Stout. Archie Godwin does a favor for a friend, steps in at a dance held for unwed mothers, and regrets it. One of the four mothers in question, Faith, not only is rumored to have a bottle of cyanide in her purse, but dies from a glass of champagne spiked with the stuff. Knowing Faith was depressed, Archie had kept an eye on her the whole evening long and swears she did not have the opportunity to commit suicide. It is only Nero Wolfe who believes him.
Goodwin is hired by Edwin Laidlaw, a fellow chaperone to look into the matter. Edwin is the hidden father of Faith’s child. Soon the police are tipped off to Laidlaw’s involvement in the affair. Other people become suspects including Faith’s mother and Archie’s old fried who asked him to sit in originally.
There are a few more characters pulled into the plot, rationals and backstory abound, and a convoluted explanation reveals the true killer and the reasons for the murder.
This is a true story of the 1950’s, one that wouldn’t work so well today. This is due to the changed attitudes in sexual mores, viewpoints having changed to a radical degree. The thought of a foundation for unwed mothers seems almost Victorian, as well as the shame that is felt by all parties involved. And the self-satisfaction garnered by the “endowing” ladies of society has fallen by the wayside.
This, despite the attitudes toward sex, is one of the better, more enduring of Mr. Stout’s work. Both Goodwin and Wolfe are quite brillant here. A very good read indeed. ( )
  TomDonaghey | May 28, 2020 |
One of the better Nero Wolfe mysteries! ( )
  leslie.98 | Sep 27, 2019 |
Archie does a favour for a past client's relative and it turns out to be murder in high society.

While filling in at a charity dinner for a select group composed of unwed mothers, well connected single men and the doyenne of high society, one of the mothers dies of poisoning right before everybody's eyes. Her comments of committing suicide were well known, but did she really do it? Archie says no, but won't say why. Even under pressure by the attendees, the police and the D.A.

Even though this is Archie's case, Nero Wolfe is pulled in. Without leaving his home, Nero Wolfe navigates the many hairpin turns and scarcity of clues to decide whether it is suicide or murder.

I've read a number of Nero Wolfe mysteries and enjoy the characterizations and scenes. This is another enjoyable read. ( )
  ChazziFrazz | Jun 23, 2016 |
Had no prior experience with the series, but really enjoyed this. Read like an Agatha Christie with a slightly edgier detective. Keen observation and deductive reasoning worthy of Hercule Poirot or Sherlock Holmes. ( )
  BraveNewBks | Mar 10, 2016 |
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Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Rex Stoutautor primaritotes les edicionscalculat
Ahmavaara, EeroTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Montonen, MarttiTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Prichard, MichaelNarradorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
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If it hadn't been raining and blowing that raw Tuesday morning in March I would have been out, walking to the bank to deposit a couple of checks, when Austin Byne phoned me, and he might have tried somebody else.
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