On the fourth day of Bookgiving, my true love gave to me:
The Doorbell Rang, a Nero Wolfe-Archie Goodwin mystery by Rex Stout.
I must admit that Rex Stout is one of my favorites - perhaps the American author whose books I find most enjoyable. Certainly I can re-read them (and have done so many times) with nearly as much pleasure as I had when I first read them. Rex Stout presented us with a whole pack of regular characters. Not just the immense and largely immovable Nero Wolfe, the implacable genius detective, but also Archie Goodwin, Wolfe's right hand - and, for that matter, left hand and both legs, who serves as the constantly wisecracking narrator of the books and novellas.
The Doorbell Rang isn't exactly like most of the other Nero Wolfe books. There's a murder in this one, but it's really not the main attraction of the book. The real draw here is nothing less than watching Wolfe and Archie take on the entire FBI.
Here’s the situation: a very wealthy woman comes to Wolfe’s office on West 35th Street in New York. She has read an unflattering book about the FBI, and has bought 10 thousand copies of it and sent them to friends, government officials, and others whom she believed should read the book. As a result, she says, she has been harassed by the FBI. She believes they have tapped her telephone, spied on her movements, and generally made her life miserable. She wants to hire Wolfe to make them stop.
It takes some persuading. Neither Wolfe nor Archie is a fool. They know that if they do get involved, the FBI will shift its harassment to them. They could wind up losing their licenses as private detectives. But Wolfe’s ego – and Archie’s too – make them accept the case, even though Wolfe doesn’t have any immediate answer to the question: how do you persuade the entire FBI organization – not to mention its boss, J. Edgar Hoover – to stop doing what they won’t even admit they are doing? Trust me on this: when you see the scheme that Wolfe concocts, you will be grinning from ear to ear. And the last line of the book is as near perfection as I've seen in any of Rex Stout's books.
Currently, The Doorbell Rang is available as a mass-market paperback. If you have a Kindle, there is a Kindle edition. And for those who prefer to listen to their books there is from Audible, an audio book version.
(If you came in late, here's what we're doing - I hope you'll join in!)