It’s the late 1930s and the normally agoraphobic Wolfe has ventured out of his beloved New York City brownstone to upstate New York, where a feud with a fellow amateur orchid grower has provoked him to exhibit his prized albino hybrids at a county agricultural exhibition. He’s not looking for work, but when the scion of the local gentry is found dead in the pasture where a grand champion bull is penned, Wolfe finds himself trading his sleuthing skills for the opportunity to avoid an uncomfortable, dirty hotel room. Or, as Archie puts it, “this case you’ve dragged us into through your absolute frenzy to find an adequate chair to sit on.”

image of book cover, Some Buried Caesar by Rex StoutSome Buried Caesar (1939) is one of the earliest Wolfe novels but already all the essential elements are in place: Wolfe’s reluctance to leave home, his extreme dislike of riding in a car (see the quote below), the rat-a-tat-tat banter between him and Archie, his ability to solve mysteries well before anyone else, his reluctance to share the solution unless there’s something in it for him. Caesar is also notable for being the book in which Archie first meets Lily Rowan, the ultra-rich New York socialite who becomes his steady companion and partner in witty banter throughout the series.

The setting outside of New York City and the brownstone means Caesar can’t truly be considered an archetype of the series, but in every other element it is a more than worthy entry in the canon of Wolfe and Archie.

I presume you know, since I’ve told you, that my distrust and hatred of vehicles in motion is partly based on my plerophory that their apparent submission to control is illusory and that they may act at their pleasure, and sooner or later will, act on whim. Very well, this one has, and we are intact. Thank God the whim was not a deadlier one.”

— Nero Wolfe

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