Where There’s a Will (Nero Wolfe #8) ★★★★☆

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Title: Where There’s a Will
Series: Nero Wolfe #8
Author: Rex Stout
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 171
Words: 61.5K


From Wikipedia

The famous Hawthorne sisters — April, May and June — visit Nero Wolfe in a body to ask his help in averting a scandal. After the shock of their brother Noel’s death three days before, they have been dealt another shock at learning the terms of his will. May, a college president, insists that Noel had promised to leave $1 million to her school; however, the will leaves each sister nothing but a piece of fruit and passes almost all of Noel’s estate to a young woman named Naomi Karn. The sisters want to hire Wolfe to persuade Naomi to turn over at least half of the inheritance so that Noel’s widow Daisy will not bring a case to court that would cause a sensation.

Daisy’s unexpected arrival interrupts the conference. She wears a veil at all times to cover the disfiguring scars left after Noel accidentally shot her with a bow and arrow. She discovered that Noel was having an affair with Naomi and now hates the entire Hawthorne family as a result. Wolfe assures her that he will consider her interests in addition to those of the sisters and attempt to negotiate with Naomi on their behalf.

Later that day, Inspector Cramer interrupts another meeting with the news that Noel had in fact been murdered. He had been killed by a shotgun blast while hunting on his country estate; it was assumed that he had tripped and discharged the weapon, but further analysis of the evidence has led the police to discard this theory. Archie is called away to help Fred Durkin keep an eye on a man whom Fred had been tailing – Eugene Davis, a partner at the law firm that drew up Noel’s will, who had been seen in a bar with Naomi. Davis is now drunk and passed out in a run-down apartment.

On Wolfe’s orders, Archie travels to the Hawthorne mansion on 67th Street, where he finds Wolfe, the family and other associated individuals gathered to meet with the local police. Archie finds, to his surprise, that there are apparently two Daisy Hawthornes in the house. One is meeting with Wolfe and accusing April of the murder, based on the fact that a cornflower was found next to the body and April had had a bunch of them with her. The other is speaking to Naomi in the living room. The one meeting with Wolfe turns out to be the real Daisy, and Wolfe later determines that the other was actually April in disguise, trying to get information out of Naomi about the will and the relationship between her and Noel.

Later in the day, Archie finds Naomi strangled to death, her body hidden in an alcove next to the living room. Wolfe slips out of the house without telling Archie and has Orrie Cather drive him back to Wolfe’s brownstone on 35th Street. After being confronted by the Hawthornes, Daisy spitefully claims to the police that April is the murderer, and she is arrested by the authorities. Meanwhile, June’s daughter Sara tells Archie that someone has stolen her camera. The film it contained had already been sent off to be developed, and Wolfe and Archie later retrieve the pictures. After examining them, Wolfe warns Sara that her life will be in danger if she returns to the estate and has her stay at the brownstone. Cramer threatens to arrest Wolfe as a material witness to Naomi’s murder, but Wolfe counters by threatening to turn evidence of the murderer’s guilt over to a local newspaper instead of the police.

With all of the principals assembled in his office, Wolfe accuses Davis of switching Noel’s actual will (which left generous bequests to Daisy, his sisters and May’s college) with a forgery that leaves nearly the entire estate to Naomi, in a plot to win her affections, and of killing Noel and Naomi. When Glenn Prescott, another of the law firm’s partners, agrees with this theory, Davis angrily accuses him of the murders. Wolfe then reveals his evidence: one of Sara’s pictures, which shows Prescott wearing a wild rose in his lapel, a flower that he could not have obtained in the city. He had picked it at the scene of Noel’s murder, discarding the cornflower he had worn (later found near the body), and had only remembered after Sara had taken the photograph. Prescott is placed under arrest, and Archie decides to keep the material witness warrant as a souvenir.

My Thoughts:

Here I am at the eighth book in the Nero Wolfe series and I am having a hard time not simply reading these one after another. I am REALLY enjoying these. What I find amusing is that the “mystery” of each book I can totally take it or leave it. I don’t try to solve what is going on or even care. I like the interactions between all of the various characters whether main or side.

Archie is still pretty starchy and it’s not worn on me at all. Wolfe continues to be as peremptive, eccentric and fat as ever and THAT hasn’t worn on me at all either. I am surprised he hasn’t died from a heart attack but some people have all the luck I guess. Each book introduces side characters who are great. In this one we have the fore-runner of the Hollywood Glam-Mom. Each of the Hawthorne sisters, while sharing a certain something, are not just 3 names give the author more room to maneuver. They are key individuals in the story and each one reacts differently and has different situational pressures on them. One is a mom, one is married to a high ranking political man and another is an actress. And then you have the lawyers Prescott and Davis. Oh, they are everything you want in lawyers in a mystery story like this. It was like giving someone a one-two punch and then doing a Rocky Balboa dance around the ring to read about them. And finally, the cops and various law enforcement officers. They have hassled Archie and Wolfe in every single book and most of the time Wolfe just throws utter defiance back in their face. While I am a law-abiding citizen and believe in law and order and that the officers of the law are to be obeyed and respected, I also like seeing citizens knowing their rights and using them properly. The Law IS at a disadvantage because it has to abide by the laws in place, and that has consequences. Badguys will get away or manipulate things, but once the Law starts changing itself to suit the situation, that way leads to tyranny. And revolution and bloodshed, which is not a good thing. So the first step to prevent that is an informed citizenry and Wolfe and Archie are stirling examples of that. Bravo boys!

Now, the one thing that bugged me. We have been told time and again that Wolfe is eccentric and won’t leave his house. We’ve seen examples of this. But so far, in these eight books, Wolfe has ended up leaving his house more times than he’s stayed. In this book he goes to the Hawthorne house and ends up doing most of his work there before running back to his house to keep out of the hands of the law. It isn’t a big thing, but all of these “exceptions” make it hard to accept that it is a big deal for him to leave the house. And that’s about my only problem with this book 😀

Rating: 4 out of 5.

25 thoughts on “Where There’s a Will (Nero Wolfe #8) ★★★★☆

  1. You got me addicted to these books Booky. I am currently reading book 13 and just love the characters and interactions. I’m possibly in love with Archie. Tried to read a different book between 10 & 11 but just wanted to get back to Wolfe so failed dismally.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahhhh, this comment explains that “impossible” to Alex then. I was wondering what that was about.

      You are racing ahead of me! But with 47 in total, I wonder if you’ll burn out or not. It is just excellent writing after all 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have been on a big Nero Wolfe kick in film and television for a month or so after stumbling across a 1936 Nero Wolfe movie with Lionel Stanton as ‘Archie’. There is a tv pilot from 1959 with William Shattner as Archie. There is a seventies tv full season with William Conrad as Wolfe. There is a radio series with Sydney Greenstreet as Wolfe and these are all fantastic, but the best, by far is the 2001 version starring Timothy Hutton as Archie.
    I am super stingy with my book buying budget, and the kindle prices are borderline for me, but I am about to start buying and reading the Rex Stoout novels. {I have been on and Agatha Christie reading kick since I can get most of her books on a free reading service called ‘scribd’.}
    Merry Christmas, Stoogey!
    Happy Trails, Brah!
    ~Icky 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

        1. The Timothy Hutton version is two full television series produced by A&E. A charming element of this production is that the supporting cast of each episode are played by the same actors, but they play wildly different characters. It is fun to see the recurring cast playing different roles. There is a pilot episode movie, but the characters are not quite refined into their roles.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Dave.
      Yeah, I’m grateful for good books right at the years end. Always makes me feel better going into the next year 😀

      It was a very low key Christmas. Went to service for Christmas Eve but Christmas itself, kind of puttered the day away and I was in bed by 7pm.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I understand your drive to read these books back to back because the same thing is happening to me with Michael Connelly’s Bosch series, but it’s always wise to pause between books because otherwise one risks some “character fatigue”… Still, it’s good you’re enjoying the novels 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It has been a long time since I’ve wanted to read a series of books back to back. Even the really good books I’m usually ok with putting some space between. But man, these are like a siren.

      But I know better 😀 so apacing we will go….

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Rex Stout, and how I am reacting to his books, reminds me of how I reacted to Brandon Sanderson’s stuff when he started out back in the day. So I’m trying to be more careful about indiscriminately spraying praise all over the place, because as my recent Mistborn reads have shown, that was ALL about the right book at the right time and not because of just general fantastic writing.

      I remain hopeful though that these Nero Wolfe stories are just fantastic writing and will hold up over the years and decades 😀


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