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Before Midnight (1955)

de Rex Stout

Altres autors: Mira la secció altres autors.

Sèrie: Nero Wolfe (25)

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6881424,674 (3.81)43
This mystery from one of America's best-loved writers features one of the greatest fictional detectives of all time - Nero Wolfe. An orchid-growing, gourmandizing, demanding genius, Wolfe solves this case with the able assistance of his legman, Archie Goodwin, who narrates with his usual wry humor. The Pour Amour perfume contest reeks of death when Louis Dahlmann is robbed of the riddles and then shot dead. The LBA ad firm wants the clever campaign to continue and hires Wolfe to locate and pilfered paper. While Archie trails the scent of fragrant ladies, Wolfe tracks a murderer and detects something foul close to home.… (més)

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The Nero Wolfe mystery series, by Rex Stout (1934-1955)

Fer-de-Lance (1934)
The League of Frightened Men (1935)
The Rubber Band (1936)
The Red Box (1937)
Too Many Cooks (1938)
Some Buried Caesar (1939)
Over My Dead Body (1939)
Where There's a Will (1940)
Black Orchids (1942)
Not Quite Dead Enough (1944)
The Silent Speaker (1946)
Too Many Women (1947)
And Be a Villain (1948)
Trouble in Triplicate (1949)
The Second Confession (1949)
Even in the Best Families (1950)
Three Doors to Death (1950)
Curtains for Three (1950)
Murder by the Book (1951)
Prisoner's Base (1952)
Triple Jeopardy (1952)
The Golden Spiders (1953)
The Black Mountain (1954)
Three Men Out (1954)
Before Midnight (1955)

As a young person in the 1960s and 1970s I read many or most of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe detective series, randomly, without giving a thought to sequence. Over the ensuing years I forgot nearly everything about the plots, and indeed could no longer tell even from a synopsis whether I had read a particular title or not. My library list was guesswork.

What I never forgot, however, was the basic setup (a private detective in New York with an extraordinary mind, an extraordinary appetite, and an extraordinary household), the main characters (Nero Wolfe, Archie Goodwin) and principal supporting characters (Inspector Cramer, chef Fritz Brenner, operative Saul Panzer, and the rest), the nature of their relationships, and Wolfe's style of solving cases. Oh, and the brisk charm, unfailing resourcefulness, and steady competence of the first-person narrator, Archie.

When was the last time you remembered some hyped "unforgettable" novel or movie or character for more than a week? After more than 40 years, these fictional personalities were as distinct in my mind as neighbors and playmates from my childhood and schoolmates from my youth.

In 2016, I decided to (re)read the entire series, in order. In the midst of the storms of the past two years, they have been dependable comfort reads, and I've returned to them again and again, sometimes taking up several in a row. There's the list, above, of the first twenty-five, all I've read to date. Depending on how you count them, there are about as many left. So I'm at or just past the halfway mark.

With my dread of scarcity, I find myself already wanting to ration the remainder. Yet somehow that doesn't seem to suit the spirit of the series. The stories move right along, keeping us engaged, and they are never sentimental. The pairing of Wolfe the sedentary genius with Archie the man of action produces a chemistry that is usually effervescent and sometimes explosive. You might call them yin and yang except that they consistently overlap--in ends and means, if not in methods--and frequently abrade. Their sparring seasons the main dish of detecting and solving, without ever becoming pointless bickering. Even when one of them is deliberately goading the other, their reciprocal annoyance not only entertains us but also advances the story.

The novels are rooted in the culture of their time and place and reflect certain social attitudes that prevailed in that period but are no longer considered acceptable. Archie's cheerful chauvinism would produce howls of outrage among readers today but is not false to his milieu. Depictions of casual racism and the use of politically incorrect slang, judged by 2018 standards, would never pass muster with a twenty-first-century publisher. Especially in the early novels, there are a few passages that are hard to read, even for someone who is opposed to the rewriting of history.

Likewise, the passionate condemnations of communism that we meet in the novels of the late forties and early fifties may sound both extreme and quaint today, as Americans seem to reserve their fiercest vituperation for their fellow countrymen. Yet the strong personalities, the solving of perplexing puzzles, and the righting of wrongs constitute a satisfying mix that transcends the cultural boundaries of their own era.

In the nineties, a paperback reissue of the series incorporated new introductions written by various authors and reflecting on the series. One of them, Randy Russell, pointed out in the intro to Trouble in Triplicate that once one gets used to being dazzled by Nero Wolfe, the "brain in a jar," it's Archie that keeps us coming back, with his humanity, his humor, his admiration for Wolfe, and his confidence that by being an indispensable member of Wolfe's team he is also an agent of truth and justice. Sometimes a perpetrator does go free, when Wolfe, for reasons of his own, engineers it so; but the bad guys never win.

In a mad world, that's a very secure and comfortable place to come back to. ( )
1 vota Meredy | May 6, 2018 |
When the marketing genius behind a perfume manufacturer's promotional contest is found murdered and the answers to the contest's questions stolen, the advertising firm turns to Nero Wolfe to find the culprit. Solid entry in the series, if not transcendent, but some fine comic moments in the motley assortment of contestants gathered for the contest finale. ( )
  rosalita | Jan 24, 2018 |
A silly story, but fun (if you can ignore the murders, of course). Liked it better on second read. ( )
  joeldinda | May 20, 2017 |
This is a second copy --actually the fist in the family, since t is my parents' copy. See the other copy for a review ( )
  antiquary | Feb 15, 2016 |
I love the opening --Archie Goodwin discussing with Nero Wolfe an advertising campaign contest for a perfume called Pour Amour --it involve solving rhymed clues about women known in history for their use of cosmetics.--when the rising advertising genius who designed the campaign is murdered after flaunting the answers to the five final questions (which vanish) , the five finalists are suspects. But the advertising agency involved is more worried about how to save the contest, and tat is what they hire Wolfe to solve --not the murder. If the lost list had een the only copy, I think it would have been more interesting, but there is anohter, which is handed over to Wolfe. Spoiler: He uses it to solve the problem of the contest, and appears to deny doing so to Archie, but that turns out to be a dubious verbal subterfuge, the only part of the story I dislike.
Note: rereading this shortly after :Christmas Party" I noted that both involved poison by cyanide in Pernod; perhaps it was useful as a reasonably distinctive drink, but not improbably rare. I cataloged this just before And Be a Villain, which also involves cyanide, though not in Pernod. ( )
  antiquary | Jan 23, 2016 |
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Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Rex Stoutautor primaritotes les edicionscalculat
Prichard, MichaelNarradorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Virtanen, SeppoTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
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Not that our small talk that Tuesday evening in April had any important bearing on the matter, but it will do for an overture, and it will help to explain a couple of reactions Nero Wolfe had later.
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Wikipedia en anglès (1)

This mystery from one of America's best-loved writers features one of the greatest fictional detectives of all time - Nero Wolfe. An orchid-growing, gourmandizing, demanding genius, Wolfe solves this case with the able assistance of his legman, Archie Goodwin, who narrates with his usual wry humor. The Pour Amour perfume contest reeks of death when Louis Dahlmann is robbed of the riddles and then shot dead. The LBA ad firm wants the clever campaign to continue and hires Wolfe to locate and pilfered paper. While Archie trails the scent of fragrant ladies, Wolfe tracks a murderer and detects something foul close to home.

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