Prisoner's Base (Nero Wolfe Series)

Prisoner's Base (Nero Wolfe Series)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553242690
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/28/1992
Series: Nero Wolfe Series
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 140,339
Product dimensions: 4.20(w) x 6.90(h) x 0.60(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
 
In Nero Wolfe’s old brownstone house on West Thirty-fifth Street that Monday afternoon in June, the atmosphere was sparky. I mention it not to make an issue of Wolfe’s bad habits, but because it is to the point. It was the atmosphere that got us a roomer.
 
What had stirred it up was a comment made by Wolfe three days earlier. Each Friday morning at eleven, when he comes down to the office on the first floor from the plant rooms on the roof, Wolfe signs the salary checks for Fritz and Theodore and me, hands me mine, and keeps the other two because he likes to deliver them personally. That morning, as he passed mine across his desk, he made a remark.
 
“Thank you for waiting for it.”
 
My brows went up. “What’s the matter? Bugs on the orchids?”
 
“No. But I saw your bag in the hall, and I note your finery. Straining as you are to be gone, it is gracious of you to wait for this pittance, this meager return for your excessive labors in the week nearly ended. Especially since the bank balance is at its lowest point in two years.”
 
I controlled myself. “That deserves an answer, and here it is. As for finery, I am headed for a weekend in the country and am dressed accordingly. As for straining, I am not.” I glanced at my wrist. “I have ample time to get the car and drive to Sixty-third Street to get Miss Rowan. As for pittance, right. As for excessive labors, I have had to spend most of my time recently sitting on my prat only because you have seen fit to turn down four offers of jobs in a row. As for the week nearly ended, meaning that I am dashing off to carouse before the week is out for which I am being paid, you’ve known about it for a month, and what’s here to keep me? As for the bank balance, there I admit you have a point. I’m the bookkeeper and I know, and I’m willing to help. It’s only a pittance anyway, what the hell.”
 
I took my check, with thumbs and forefingers at the middle of its top edge, tore it across, put the halves together and tore again, dropped the shreds into my wastebasket, and turned and started for the door. His bellow came at me.
 
“Archie!”
 
I wheeled and glared at him. He glared back. “Pfui,” he said.
 
“Nuts,” I said, and turned and went.
 
That was what created the atmosphere. When I returned from the country late Sunday night he had gone up to bed. By Monday morning the air might possibly have cleared if it hadn’t been for the torn-up check. We both knew the stub would have to be voided and a new check drawn, but he wasn’t going to tell me to do it without being asked, and I wasn’t going to do it without being told. A man has his pride. With that between us, the stiffness Monday morning lasted through lunch and beyond, into the afternoon.
 
Around 4:30 I was at my desk, working on the germination records, when the doorbell rang. Ordinarily, unless instructions have been given, Fritz answers it, but that day my legs needed stretching and I went. Swinging the door open, I took in a sight that led me to an agreeable conclusion. The suitcase and hatbox could have held a salesman’s samples, but the young woman in the light peach-colored dress and tailored jacket was surely no peddler. Calling on Nero Wolfe with luggage, ten to one she was a prospective client from out of town, and, coming straight from the station or airport, in a hurry. Such a one was welcome.
 
With the hatbox dangling from her hand, she crossed the threshold, brushed past me, and said, “You’re Archie Goodwin. Will you bring my suitcase in? Please?”
 
I did so, closed the door, and deposited the suitcase against the wall. She put the hatbox down beside it and straightened to speak.
 
“I want to see Nero Wolfe, but of course he’s always up in the plant rooms from four to six. That’s why I picked this time to come, I want to see you first.” Her eyes moved. “That’s the door to the front room.” Her eyes moved again, aimed the length of the hall. “That’s the stairs, and the door to the dining room on the right and to the office on the left. The hall’s wider than I expected. Shall we go to the office?”
 
I had never seen eyes like hers. Either they were brownish gray flecked with brownish yellow, or brownish yellow flecked with brownish gray. They were deep in, wide apart, and moved fast.
 
“What’s the matter?” she asked.
 
That was phony. She must have been used to people, at first sight of those eyes, staring at them; she probably expected it. I told her nothing was the matter, took her to the office and gave her a chair, sat at my desk, and observed, “So you’ve been here before.”
 
She shook her head. “A friend of mine was here a long while ago, and then of course I’ve read about it.” She looked around, twisting her head to the right and then to the left. “I wouldn’t have come if I hadn’t known a good deal about it, and about Nero Wolfe and you.” She leveled the eyes at me, and, finding it difficult to meet them casually, I met them consciously. She went on, “I thought it would be better to tell you about it first because I’m not sure I would know how to put it to Nero Wolfe. You see, I’m trying to work something out. I wonder—do you know what I think I need right now?”
 
“No. What?”
 
“A Coke and rum with some lime and lots of ice. I don’t suppose you’ve got Meyer’s?”
 
It seemed to me she was crowding a little, but I said sure, we had everything, and got up to step to Wolfe’s desk and ring for Fritz. When he had come and got the order, and I was back in my chair, she spoke again. “Fritz looks younger than I expected,” she said.
 
I leaned back and clasped my hands behind my head. “You’re welcome to a drink, even a Coke and rum,” I told her, “and I’m enjoying your company, that’s okay, but if you want me to tell you how to put something to Mr. Wolfe maybe you’d better start.”
 
“Not till I’ve had the drink,” she said firmly.
 
She not only had the drink, she made herself at home. After Fritz had brought it and she had taken a couple of sips, she murmured something about its being warm and removed the jacket and dropped it on the seat of the red leather chair. Furthermore, she took off the straw thing she had on her head, fingered her hair back, and got a mirror from her bag and gave herself a brief look. Then, with her glass in her hand, and sipping intermittently, she moved to my desk for a glance at the germination cards, crossed to the big globe and gave it a gentle spin, and went to the shelves and looked at titles of books. When her glass was empty she put it on a table, went to her chair and sat, and gave me the eyes.
 
“I’m beginning to get myself together,” she told me.
 
“Good. Don’t rush it.”
 
“I won’t. I’m not a rusher. I’m a very cautious girl—believe me, I am. I never rushed but one thing in my life, and that one was enough. I’m not sure I’m over it yet. I think maybe I should have another drink.”
 
I decided against it. I couldn’t deny that the effect Coke and rum had on her was pleasant; it tuned her up and emphasized her charms, which were fair enough without the emphasis. But this was office hours, and I wanted to find out if she had any potential as a client. So I decided to dodge the drink problem with a polite suggestion, but before I had it framed she demanded, “Does the door of the south room on the third floor have a bolt on the inside?”
 
I frowned at her. I was beginning to suspect she was something we couldn’t use, like for instance a female writer getting material for a magazine piece on a famous detective’s home, but even so she was not the kind to be led out by the ear and rolled off the stoop down the steps to the sidewalk. There was no good reason, considering the eyes, why she shouldn’t be humored up to a point.
 

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Prisoner's Base 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just finished this excellent mystery. I've seen the A&E adaptation of Prisoner's Base and it was fantastic so then I wanted to get the book. I finally obtained the book and read it. I won't spoil the story for you but this mystery contains: mystery, suspense, emotion of the victims who were killed, and this mystery goes way into depth between Nero Wolfe & Archie Goodwin's relationship in the Brownstone. Just to start you it out there are 2 murders and all of them die the same way: hit over the head and strangled with a cord. When the 3rd murder occurs it brings lots of emotion. This is one of the best mysteries Rex Stout has ever devised in his Nero Wolfe series. Don't miss out reading this great, fantastic, suspenseful Nero Wolfe mystery!! Read it, you will LOVE it!!
Beth50 More than 1 year ago
I love all the Rex Stout Nero Wolfe/Archie Goodwin books. Some are better than others; but there is just something so special about all the relationships in the Wolfe household and the regulars who come in like Cramer, Cather and Panzer. This one is especially recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
All the Wolfe/Goodwin books are good, and some are excellent. This is one of his best. The mystery is clever, and there are numerous red herrings. As always, the characters are brilliant, and the dialogue is witty and clever. And, don't forget the intrinsic, not slapstick, humor always found woven in here and there throughout each book. Archie's description of the lawyer, Irby, on pages 81 and 82 is classic. What really lifts this book to the next level, though, is the Wolfe/Goodwin dynamic. Always special, it is especially good in this book. Their understanding of one anothers quirks, traits, and abilities helps drive the suspense of the story.
MusicMom41 on LibraryThing 25 days ago
Nero Wolfe novels are ¿comfort¿ reads for me. When I¿m tired or just can¿t figure out what I¿m in the mood to read it has become my habit just to grab the next NW and settle down for a pleasant evening ¿with friends¿ without having to think too much. I enjoy the characters and the puzzles and I¿m about even with Stout at figuring out the answer before Wolfe does. This is one where I didn¿t. Stout played fair but the hints were not made as obvious as they sometimes are. This one has an unusual twist in that the person who becomes the client is a surprise. We also get to see a little of the ¿human¿ side of Wolfe¿s lawyer, Nathaniel Parker. Recommended for fans of ¿classic¿ mysteries
Demiguise on LibraryThing 25 days ago
An excellent story from start to finish. I knew who the culprit was, being a keen fan of the now-defunct A&E series, but the book was so much more detailed and engrossing that I fell into the story and didn't want it to end. In fact, when I first finished it, I moped around the house for a few days before starting all over again, just to rejoin the wonderful world inhabited by Wolfe, Fritz, and the always dashing Mr. Goodwin.
wildbill on LibraryThing 28 days ago
This is number 20 or about one-third of the way into the Nero Wolfe series. I enjoyed this book very much because of the personal involvement of Archie and Wolfe in the story. The book opens with Priscilla Eads showing up at Wolfe's house with a suitcase and hatbox saying she is going to be staying there for a week. Archie accepts her $350.00 knowing that Wolfe will more than likely invite her to leave. After dinner he does and Archie puts her in a taxi after returning her money. Two hours later she is found strangled and her maid is found to have been killed earlier in the evening.Archie realizes that if he had not put her in the cab when he did she would not have been killed when she was and takes on the responsibility of finding her murderer. Wolfe decides to take on Archie as his client.Priscilla Eads was going to become the owner of a large corporation at the end of her week at Wolfe's house. A double murder involving a prominent rich young woman prompts a massive police investigation which Archie joins. Wolfe, without consulting Archie, dips into the emergency fund to hire an investigator.All I can say without being a spoiler is that the murder of the second victim is even more personal to Archie.Because of her death the wealth which would have gone to Priscilla Eads will go to the top employees of Softdown corporation. The machinations of that part of the story introduce the reader to some truly unpleasant people. They participate in a meeting about her killing and several of them make some statements that are truly bizarre and though not relevant to who killed Ms. Eads are an interesting comment on the possibilities of the human personality. Ms. Eads feminist ideas are an interesting addition to the plans she had for Softdown.Of course Wolfe knew who it was all along. In a grand finale with everyone present Wolfe names the murderer and he is apprehended. I thought this book was more about Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe than Priscilla Eads and the other women murdered. They both showed character and compassion in their response to the murder of people that were a small part of their lives.Edit | More
Anonymous 7 months ago
Fantastic author. One of his best
Gilbert_M_Stack More than 1 year ago
A successful novel has to catch a reader’s attention right away and in Prisoner’s Base Rex Stout does this admirably by having an apparently wealthy young woman arrive on Wolfe’s doorstep asking to move in for a week. Wolfe is not fond of women or changes to his routine so this seemingly innocent request is an unthinkable intrusion for him. He ultimately rejects the woman’s request, she leaves, and is murdered a few hours later. Why she was killed (and of course who did it) is the focus of the rest of the novel and it’s a fascinating quest complicated by two more related killings. It’s a good tale and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, but I feel that once again Stout plays unfair with the reader. Wolfe gets information we don’t have and it lets him solve the mystery. Admittedly, I failed to form the hypothesis that Wolfe formed that led him to send Saul Panzer after the secret info, but it still feels unfair.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's not a classic Wolfe and Goodwin story. It would be necessary to give some spoilers to explain why, but just know that if you have enjoyed other NY novels, you will not like this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I didn't guess at all. The author had given all the clues, but I didn't know who it was until the murderer was revealed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read and reread all of Rex stout novels . I have enjoyed all of them and never tired of reading of Archie and Nero . All of the characters are so believe able . Rex stout will ne8O ,ver be A , surpassed but Robert goldsboro is so very close it's uncanny and if you are a fan of Rex stout Nero wolf and Archie read Robert goldsboro .they will come back to you .
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