It began with the unsolved murder of a clerk in a law office and a list of names that meant absolutely nothing to anyone. It ended with several more murders, all of them apparently tied to a book - a book so dangerous that anyone who might have read it could wind up dead.
That's the basic plot line in "Murder by the Book," by Rex Stout, a 1951 mystery featuring Nero Wolfe and his assistant, the irrepressible Archie Goodwin. It's the subject of this week's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the full review by clicking here.
Wolfe and Archie are hired by a midwestern businessman whose daughter has been killed by a hit-and-run driver. Her father thinks the police aren't paying enough attention. Wolfe agrees, particularly when the man produces a letter from his daughter which includes a name Wolfe recognizes as having been linked to an earlier murder. It quickly becomes apparent that the deaths are in some way connected to an unpublished manuscript - a manuscript which has disappeared. The problem, for both the police and Nero Wolfe, is that there is no obvious clue, no way to figure out why the missing manuscript should be so deadly.
This is one of my favorites. There's more to the characters in this book that causes them to linger in the reader's memory, particularly the relatives of two of the victims. In order to make and prove his case, Nero Wolfe has to stage what has to be one of the best office confrontation scenes in any of the books.
"Murder by the Book" is vintage Rex Stout, writing at the top of his form. It is available in paperback and there's an Amazon Kindle edition. I recommend it very highly.