In the Best Families (Nero Wolfe Series)

In the Best Families (Nero Wolfe Series)

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In the Best Families (Nero Wolfe Series) by Rex Stout

The aging millionairess has a problem: where is her young playboy husband getting all his money? To help find the answer, Archie infiltrates a party at her palatial estate. But her late-night murder ruins the festive mood . . . and a letter bomb from a powerful crime boss makes Nero Wolfe do the unthinkable—run for his life. Suddenly Archie finds himself on his own, trying to find a killer without the help of his old mentor. For to all appearances, Wolfe has vanished. The career of the world’s most famous detective has ended in cowardice and disgrace . . . or has it?

Introduction by Patricia Sprinkle
“It is always a treat to read a Nero Wolfe mystery. The man has entered our folklore.”—The New York Times Book Review
A grand master of the form, Rex Stout is one of America’s greatest mystery writers, and his literary creation Nero Wolfe is one of the greatest fictional detectives of all time. Together, Stout and Wolfe have entertained—and puzzled—millions of mystery fans around the world. Now, with his perambulatory man-about-town, Archie Goodwin, the arrogant, gourmandizing, sedentary sleuth is back in the original seventy-three cases of crime and detection written by the inimitable master himself, Rex Stout.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553277760
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/28/1995
Series: Nero Wolfe Series
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 109,161
Product dimensions: 4.24(w) x 6.78(h) x 0.69(d)

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

Chapter 1
It was nothing out of the ordinary that Mrs. Barry Rackham had made the appointment with her finger pressed to her lips. That is by no means an unusual gesture for people who find themselves in a situation where the best they can think of is to make arrangements to see Nero Wolfe.
With Mrs. Barry Rackham the shushing finger was only figurative, since she made the date speaking to me on the phone. It was in her voice, low and jerky, and also in the way she kept telling me how confidential it was, even after I solemnly assured her that we rarely notified the press when someone requested an appointment on business. At the end she told me once more that she would have preferred to speak to Mr. Wolfe himself, and I hung up and decided it rated a discreet routine check on a prospective client, starting with Mr. Mitchell at the bank and Lon Cohen at the Gazette. On the main point of interest; could she and did she pay her bills, the news was favorable: she was worth a good four million and maybe five. Calling it four, and assuming that Wolfe’s bill for services rendered would come to only half of it, that would be enough to pay my current salary—as Wolfe’s secretary, trusted assistant, and official gnat—for a hundred and sixty-seven years; and in addition to that, living as I did there in Wolfe’s house, I also got food and shelter. So I was fixed for life if it turned out that she needed two million bucks’ worth of detective work.
She might have at that, judging from the way she looked and acted at 11:05 the next morning, Friday, when the doorbell rang and I went to let her in. There was a man on the stoop with her, and after glancing quickly east and then west she brushed past him and darted inside, grabbed my sleeve, and told me in a loud whisper, “You’re not Nero Wolfe!”
Instantly she released me, seized the elbow of her companion to hurry him across the sill, and whispered at him explosively, “Come in and shut the door!” You might have thought she was a duchess diving into a hock shop.
Not that she was my idea of a duchess physically. As I attended to the door and got the man’s hat and topcoat hung on the rack, I took them in. She was a paradox—bony from the neck up and ample from the neck down. On her chin and jawbone and cheekbone the skin was stretched tight, but alongside her mouth and nose were tangles of wrinkles.
As I helped her off with her fur coat I told her, “Look, Mrs. Rackham. You came to consult Nero Wolfe, huh?”
“Yes,” she whispered. She nodded and said right out loud, “Of course.”
“Then you ought to stop trembling if you can. It makes Mr. Wolfe uneasy when a woman trembles because he thinks she’s going to be hysterical, and he might not listen to you. Take a deep breath and try to stop.”
“You were trembling all the way down here in the car,” the man said in a mild baritone.
“I was not!” she snapped. That settled, she turned to me. “This is my cousin, Calvin Leeds. He didn’t want me to come here, but I brought him along anyhow. Where’s Mr. Wolfe?”
I indicated the door to the office, went and opened it, and ushered them in.
I have never figured out Wolfe’s grounds for deciding whether or not to get to his feet when a woman enters his office. If they’re objective they’re too complicated for me, and if they’re subjective, I wouldn’t know where to start. This time he kept his seat behind his desk in the corner near a window, merely nodding and murmuring when I pronounced names. I thought for a second that Mrs. Rackham was standing gazing at him in reproach for his bad manners, but then I saw it was just surprised disbelief that he could be that big and fat. I’m so used to the quantity of him that I’m apt to forget how he must impress people seeing him for the first time.
He aimed a thumb at the red leather chair beyond the end of his desk and muttered at her, “Sit down, madam.”
She went and sat. I then did likewise, at my own desk, not far from Wolfe’s and at right angles to it. Calvin Leeds, the cousin, had sat twice, first on the couch toward the rear and then on a chair which I moved up for him. I would have guessed that both he and Mrs. Rackham had first seen the light about the same time as the twentieth century, but he could have been a little older. He had a lot of weather in his face with its tough-looking hide, his hair had been brown but was now more gray, and with his medium size and weight he looked and moved as if all his inside springs were still sound and lively. He had taken Wolfe in, and the surroundings too, and now his eyes were on his cousin.
Mrs. Rackham spoke to Wolfe. “You couldn’t very well go around finding out things. Could you?”
“I don’t know,” he said politely. “I haven’t tried for years, and I don’t intend to. Others go around for me.” He gestured at me. “Mr. Goodwin, of course, and others as required. You need someone to go around?”
“Yes.” She paused. Her mouth worked. “I think I do. Provided it can be done safely—I mean, without anyone knowing about it.” Her mouth worked some more. “I am bitterly ashamed—having at my age, for the first time in my life—having to go to a private detective with my personal affairs.”
“Then you shouldn’t have come,” Leeds said mildly.
“Then you have come too soon,” Wolfe told her.
“Too soon? Why?”
“You should have waited until it became so urgent or so intolerable that it would cause you no shame to ask for help, especially for one as expensive as me.” He shook his head. “Too soon. Come back if and when you must.”
“Hear that, Sarah?” Leeds asked, but not rubbing it in.
Ignoring him, she leaned forward and blurted at Wolfe, “No, I’m here now. I have to know! I have to know about my husband!”
Wolfe’s head jerked around to me, to give me a look intended to scorch. But I met his eye and told him emphatically, “No, sir. If it is, she fibbed. I told her we wouldn’t touch divorce or separation evidence, and she said it wasn’t.”
He left me and demanded, “Do you want your husband followed?”
“I—I don’t know. I don’t think so—”
“Do you suspect him of infidelity?”
“No! I don’t!”
Wolfe grunted, leaned back in his chair, squirmed to get comfortable, and muttered, “Tell me about it.”
Mrs. Rackham’s jaw started to quiver. She looked at Leeds. His brows went up, and he shook his head, not as a negative apparently, but merely leaving it to her. Wolfe let out a grunt. She moved her eyes to him and said plaintively, “I’m neurotic.”
“I am not,” Wolfe snapped, “a psychiatrist. I doubt if—”
She cut him off. “I’ve been neurotic as long as I can remember. I had no brother or sister and my mother died when I was three, and my father didn’t enjoy my company because I was ugly. When he died—I was twenty then—I cried all during the funeral service, not because he was dead but because I knew he wouldn’t have wanted me so close to him all that time—in the church and driving to the cemetery and there at the grave.”
Her jaw started to quiver again, but she clamped it and got control. “I’m telling you this because it’s no secret anyway, and I want you to understand why I must have help. I have never been sure exactly why my first husband married me, because he had money of his own and didn’t really need mine, but it wasn’t long until he hated looking at me just as my father had. So I—”
“That isn’t true, Sarah,” Calvin Leeds objected. “You imagined—”
“Bosh!” she quashed him. “I’m not that neurotic! So I got a divorce with his consent and gratitude, I think, though he was too polite to say so, and I hurried it through because I didn’t want him to know I was pregnant. Soon after the divorce my son was born, and that made complications, but I kept him—I kept him and he was mine until he went to war. He never showed the slightest sign of feeling about my looks the way my father and my husband had. He was never embarrassed about me. He liked being with me. Didn’t he, Calvin?”
“Of course he did,” Leeds assured her, apparently meaning it.

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In the Best Families 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this particular Nero Wolfe story- the final confrontation between Wolfe and his nemesis, Arnold Zeck; the shocking and thoroughly enjoyable twist in the middle; Rex Stout's always fine plotting and pacing. This was a wonderful, engrossing, entertaining read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mrs. Rackam, elderly millionaire has curiosities about her penniless husband suddenly obtaining generous amounts of money. A ground ball for Nero Wolfe, genius detective and ace investigator Archie Goodwin, right? Not when it results in a bomb delivered to 918 West 35 street by the most dangerous man in the United States, Arnold Zeck (Hijinx previously chronicled in And Be A Villian & The Second Confession). It should be a call to arms for the world's greatest private eye, when the going gets tough, the tough get....going? Oh yeah, gone and nowhere to be found. Nero Wolfe abandons the sanctuary of his brownstone with Archie to handle the case at hand. Is it the last of the portly detective or will his genius combat the man no one is willing to tangle with. Either way Rex Stout brings you a nail biting adventure that runs the extremes of suspense and drama. A fabulous novel from the true master of detective fiction.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In this book, the Wolfe/Zeck standoff (shades of Holmes/Moriarty) comes to a head. Throw in murder, blackmail, a debt of honor, and greed, and you have a good yarn. The Wolfe/Goodwin books are a nice blend of the Agatha Christie-style "whodunit" and the Erle Stanley Gardner-style "whodunit" mixed with Rex Stout's own literary style. I enjoy them all, and this is a good one. Or, as Wolfe would say, it is "satisfactory". As always, the characters draw you in, the dialogue is witty and smart, the humor is dry and clever, and the mysteries are solid with lots of plausible red herrings. Sometimes the mysteries are more tricky than others, but they are never dull.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was good but not a uprising lyrics good. It gother a little boring in the middle.
pugsnhugs More than 1 year ago
Excellent read, I love how he writes Archie, Nero and Fritz. Great get away to read this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A true Nero classic!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The continuations are collectible too which you cant always say
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read all of the Nero Wolfe books and have enjoyed them all. Also I have recommended them to friends who have also enjoyed them.