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A Family Affair

A Family Affair - Rex Stout Updated on 5/5/2015.

This is arguably the last Nero Wolfe mystery: there was a compilation of three Wolfe short stories published posthumously, so this makes the book the last novel of the series. I also need to mention Rex Stout was almost 90 year old at the time of its publication, and the story is still as good and sometimes is better than the other books about the most famous New York detective.

A scared waiter from Nero Wolfe's favorite restaurant came to the detective asking for help, but he is killed before giving any information on the source of his troubles - right in the house of the famous detective, so this time it is personal for Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. Nothing can stop them and their investigation, not even jailing of Wolfe himself. He is willing to go there to keep the affair in the family as his (and Archie's) pride was severely injured; in this case by family I mean something like this:
The trio of operatives he often uses - Saul Panzer, Fred Durkin, and Orrie Cather - who call themselves The Three Musketeers
The Three Musketeers
have the same sentiment: they offer to work for free and even visit the same jail as material witnesses who keep silent.

One notable thing of note for the whole series: the first book was published in 1934, this one in 1975. Forty-one year has passed between them, and none of the recurrent characters of the series aged a single day. This is in sharp contrast with Sherlock Holmes who retired in countryside or Hercule Poirot who was practically a cripple in the last book. The life around them changes though: they use modern high-tech gadgets in their investigations.

I already mentioned Stout's age at the time of writing. I am happy to say that the witty banter between Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin which always made very nice additions to all of the books in the series is still there, as well as Archie's wisecracking. Still I had a feeling that this book is gloomier then the rest of the series while I read it.

The identity of the villain took me completely by surprise: I really had not seen it coming, and this is what made me give one extra star to the rating. All in all, I would call it a fitting conclusion to one of the most interesting detective series with very memorable cast, including two detectives who can hold on their own against Sherlock Holmes when it comes to bright and unusual individuality.

While the reading order of the rest of the series does not matter much, the book provides some closure for the series and as such should be read last.