The Black Mountain

The Black Mountain

by Rex Stout

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307768223
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/27/2011
Series: Nero Wolfe Series , #24
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 55,171
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Rex Stout (1886–1975) wrote dozens of short stories, novellas, and full-length mystery novels, most featuring his two indelible characters, the peerless detective Nero Wolfe and his handy sidekick, Archie Goodwin.

Read an Excerpt

I
 
That was the one and only time Nero Wolfe had ever seen the inside of the morgue.
 
That Thursday evening in March I barely caught the phone call. With a ticket for a basketball game at the Garden in my pocket, I had dined in the kitchen, because I would have to leave the house at ten to eight, and Wolfe refuses to sit at table with one who has to pack it in and run. And that time I couldn’t eat early because Fritz was braising a wild turkey and had to convey it to the dining room on a platter for Wolfe to see whole before wielding the knife. Sometimes when I have a date for a game or a show I get things from the refrigerator around six-thirty and take my time, but I wanted some of that hot turkey, not to mention Fritz’s celery sauce and corn fritters.
 
I was six minutes behind schedule when, as I pushed my chair back and got erect, the phone rang. After asking Fritz to get it on the kitchen extension and proceeding to the hall, I had got my topcoat from the rack and was putting it on when Fritz called to me, “Archie! Sergeant Stebbins wants you!”
 
I muttered something appropriate for muttering but not for printing, made it to the office and across to my desk, lifted the receiver, and told it, “Shoot. You may have eight seconds.”
 
It took more like eight times eighty, not because Purley Stebbins insisted on it, but I did after he had given me the main fact. When I had hung up I stood a while, frowning at Wolfe’s desk. Many times through the years I have had the job of reporting something to Wolfe that I knew he wouldn’t enjoy hearing, but this was different. This was tough. I even found myself wishing I had got away two minutes sooner, and then, realizing that that would have been tougher—for him, at least—I went to the hall, crossed it to the dining room, entered and spoke.
 
“That was Purley Stebbins. Half an hour ago a man came out of a house on East Fifty-fourth Street and was shot and killed by a man waiting there in a parked car. Papers found—”
 
Wolfe cut me off. “Must I remind you that business shall not intrude on meals?”
 
“You don’t need to. This isn’t business. Papers found on the body indicate that it was Marko Vukcic. Purley says there’s no doubt about it, two of the dicks knew him by sight, but he wants me to come down and give positive identification. If you have no objection I’m going. It won’t be as pleasant a way to spend an evening as going to a ball game, but I’m sure he would have done as much …”
 
I would have preferred to go on talking, but had to stop to clear my throat. Wolfe had put down his knife and fork, quietly and properly, on his plate. His eyes were leveled at me, but he wasn’t scowling. A corner of his mouth twitched, and after a moment twitched again. To stop it he compressed his lips.
 
He nodded at me. “Go. Phone.”
 
“Have you any—”
 
“No. Phone.”
 
I whirled and went.
 
After going a block south on Tenth Avenue and flagging a taxi on Thirty-fourth Street, it didn’t take long to roll cross-town to the city mortuary on East Twenty-ninth; and, since I was not a stranger there and was expected, I was passed through the railing and on in with no questions asked. I have never cared for the smell of that place. An assistant medical examiner named Faber tried once to sell me the idea that it smells just like a hospital, but I have a good nose and I didn’t buy. He claimed that there are rarely more than one or two cadavers on the premises not in the coolers, and I said in that case someone must spray the joint with something to make it smell like a morgue.
 
The Homicide dick who escorted me down the corridor was one I knew only well enough to nod to, and the assistant ME in the room we entered was one I hadn’t run across before. He was working on an object that was stretched out on a long table under a strong light, with a helper standing by. The dick and I stood and watched a minute. A detailed description of the performance would help only if you expect to be faced with the job of probing a corpse for a bullet that entered at an angle between the fifth and sixth ribs, so I won’t go into it.
 
“Well?” the dick demanded.
 
“Yes,” I told him. “I identify it as the body of Marko Vukcic, owner of Rusterman’s Restaurant. If you want that signed, get it ready while I go use the phone.”
 
I went out and down the corridor to the phone booth and dialed a number. Ordinarily when I am out of the house and phone in Fritz will answer after two or three signals or Wolfe will answer after five or six, but that time Wolfe’s voice came before the first whirr was done.
 
“Yes?”
 
“Archie. It’s Marko. Shot twice in the chest and once in the belly. I suppose Stebbins is up at Fifty-fourth Street, at the scene, and maybe Cramer too. Shall I go up there?”
 
“No. Stay where you are. I’m coming to look at him. Where is it?”
 
He had been making a living as a private detective in Manhattan for more than twenty years, and majoring in murder, and he didn’t know where the morgue was. I told him; and, thinking that a little esprit de corps wouldn’t be out of place in the circumstances, and knowing how he hated moving vehicles, I was going to suggest that I go get the sedan from the garage and drive him myself, but he hung up. I went out front to the sergeant at the desk, whose name was Donovan, and told him I had identified the body but Mr. Wolfe was coming to take a look and I would stick around.
 
Donovan shook his head. “I only got orders about you.”
 
“Nuts. You don’t need orders. Any citizen and taxpayer can enter here to look for the remains of a relative or friend or enemy. Mr. Wolfe is a citizen and taxpayer. I make out his tax returns.”
 
“I thought you was a private eye.”
 
“I don’t like the way you say it, but I am. Also I am an accountant, an amanuensis, and a cocklebur. Eight to five you never heard the word amanuensis and you never saw a cocklebur.”
 
He didn’t rile. “Yeah, I know, you’re an educated wit. For Nero Wolfe I need orders. I know too much about him. Maybe he can get away with his tricks with Homicide and the DA, but not with me or none of my guests.”
 
I didn’t feel like arguing. Besides, I knew Donovan had a lot to put up with. When the door opened to admit a customer it might be anything from a pair of hoodlums wanting to collect data for a fake identification, to a hysterical female wanting to find out if she was a widow. That must have got on his nerves. So I merely explained it to him. I told him a few things about Marko Vukcic. That he was one of the only ten men I knew of that Nero Wolfe called by their first names. That for years he had dined once a month at Wolfe’s table, and Wolfe and I had dined once a month at his restaurant. That he and Wolfe had been boys together in Montenegro, which was now a part of Yugoslavia. Donovan seemed to be listening, but he wasn’t impressed. When I thought I had made the situation perfectly plain and stopped for breath, he turned to his phone, called Homicide, told them Wolfe was coming, and asked for instructions.
 
He hung up. “They’ll call back,” he informed me.
 
No bones got broken. His instructions came a minute before the door opened to admit Wolfe. I went and opened the gate in the railing, and Wolfe stepped through. “This way,” I said and steered him to the corridor and along to the room.
 
The doctor had got the slug that had entered between the fifth and sixth ribs, and was going for the one lower down. I saw that from three paces off, where I stopped. Wolfe went on until the part of him that is farthest front, his middle, was touching the edge of the table. The doctor recognized him and spoke.
 
“I understand he was a friend of yours, Mr. Wolfe.”
 
“He was,” Wolfe said a little louder than necessary. He moved sidewise, reached a hand, put fingertips under Marko’s chin, and pushed the jaw up so that the mouth closed; but when he took his hand away the lips parted again. He turned his head to frown at the doctor.
 

Customer Reviews

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The Black Mountain (Nero Wolfe Series) 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nice change of pace from meetings in the office at the Brownstone. One of the best.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
an adventure into Wolfe's past. To track down the killer of his boyhood friend, Wolfe, with Archie at his side, returns to Montenegro and Yugoslavia. This book, especially, raised my interest in the Balkan region. Not so much a whodunnit, but how-are-we-going-to bring- him-to justice story. A must for Wolfe fans.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Archie and his boss travel to Nero's homeland to fulfill a duty Nero feels for his friend Marko. The depth of responsibility demonstrated in this book unheard of in today's society. Archie has to adjust to several language barriers and you can sense his funny frustration throughout the book.
MusicMom41 on LibraryThing 20 days ago
This was another road trip book. Jim liked this one better than most of the Nero Wolf series, probably because this one has more action as Wolf travels to Montenegro (Yugoslavia) to avenge the murder of his best friend Marko who owned Rusterman¿s Restaurant and to discover who murdered his (Wolf¿'s) adopted daughter. It's a good tale but I like the traditional ones where all Wolf has to exercise is his brain. When I read the book a couplle of years ago I gave it 5 stars so I kept the same rating. I remember it as one of my favorites--I prefer to read books rather than to listen.
jburlinson on LibraryThing 22 days ago
Probably not the best book with which to make Nero & Archie's acquaintances, as both of them are required to operate under most uncongenial circumstances. They go to the mountains of Montenegro, where Archie isn't able to speak a word of any useful language and Nero has to hike, climb and get into a knife fight! If Archie can't talk and Nero must walk, then you're really not seeing them at their best. In addition, the somber opening (one of Nero's best [only] buddies is murdered) is highly atypical; the police are even solicitous of Wolfe's feelings! Zero detection and little ratiocination, but reasonably compelling.
MrsLee on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Another of my favorites, Wolfe travels to his homeland in the Caucasus mountains.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is more of an adventure story than a true mystery but it is nevertheless an excellent addition to the Nero Wolfe canon. I highly recommend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nero Wolfe leaves not only the brownstone, he leaves the country in his hunt for a killer. Great read by a great author.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you've never read a Wolfe/Goodwin book, do not start with this one. It is atypical of the rest of the canon. While Wolfe does solve a murder, it is not really a murder mystery. This book is for readers already familiar with and fans of this series. In it, Wolfe must solve a murder of a beloved friend. To do so, he must travel back to the politically unstable and unsafe home of his birth: Yugoslavia. This flips the usual Wolfe/Archie dynamic on it's head. Archie doesn't speak anything but English, and he doesn't know the lay of the land, so he must have Wolfe report to him for a change. It's a good book. It gives fans an insight into Wolfe's somewhat mysterious past. Also, it sets up a major plot point for future books in the series. I think this series is best appreciated read in sequence, but it is not vital; except, for this book. It is not a book that should be read out of sequence. And, as stated earlier, it is NOT a good choice if you've never read any of the series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cuts all wolfs in half
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"No, tell us", I begged
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the worst nero wolfe book i have ever read! It lacks all the elements that make the series so great. Not satisfactory.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
*he touched the wolves