It is all too possible to have too much of a good thing. Consider the events that took place when Archie Goodwin, concerned that the bank account of his boss, Nero Wolfe, was getting dangerously low, decided to scare up a client. He was successful, all right - but too much so, as entirely too many people started trying to persuade Wolfe to represent their interests in a compicated case, where murder was only one small factor in the equation.
Welcome to "Too Many Clients," another in Rex Stout's marvelous series about the exploits of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin and the rest of the "Thirty-Fifth Street Irregulars" who lived and/or worked at the Wolfe brownstone in New York City. Written in 1960, "Too Many Clients" is the subject of this week's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the full review by clicking here.
It was the precarious state of Wolfe's bank balance that made Archie open the door to the unprepossessing man on the brownstone's stoop. No problem; the man claimed to be a fabulously wealthy businessman who wanted to hire Archie - yes, Archie, not Wolfe himself - to find out who was following him when he went to a certain address on the upper west side of Manhattan. Certainly it seemed like easy money.
Only it wasn't. Not when the body of a murdered man turned up near that apartment. The victim turned out to be that same fabulously wealthy businessman - only it was not the man who had hired Archie. THAT man had disappeared. That upper west side address turned out to be the site of an elaborate and secret love nest, used by the businessman for his illicit trysts with a surprising number of partners. And, suddenly, potential clients for Nero Wolfe's services were lining up, wanting Wolfe to get involved to keep the secret of that apartment - and find the killer.
It's all great fun - even if some of the 1960-ish attitudes, particularly towards women, sex and domestic violence, are likely to cause raised eyebrows among many modern readers. "Too Many Clients" is still one of Rex Stout's better plots, with some lovely characters and one of Wolfe's greatest duels with Inspector Cramer of Homicide. At the moment, it appears to be out of print, but it is available as an e-book and there are plenty of copies available via the network of used book stores and mystery specialists.