Nero and Archie are bullish on catching a murderer in ‘Some Buried Caesar’

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

Amy, who is your father? Nero Wolfe is on the case

I recently picked this up in an ebook sale, and while I have read it before it happens to be one I did not own in paperback so I’ve probably only read it once, many years ago. It’s a fine later (1968) entry in the series.

9D4944E2-C393-451E-A7F0-6A643A7D49E2The client is a young woman whose mother died a few months ago in a hit-and-run car accident. After her mother’s death, Amy Denovo finds a box full of cash and a note from her mom that says, “This is from your father.” But she has no idea who her father is, and she suspects her mother was using an assumed name all these years so how can even the great Nero Wolfe and his trusty legman Archie Goodwin trace her into the past? Complicating matters, at least for Archie, is that Amy works as an editorial assistant for his paramour, Lily Rowan, but Amy insists that he not tell Lily that he and Wolfe are working for her, leading to some semi-comical misunderstanding about why Amy suddenly starts calling him Archie instead of Mr. Goodwin. It all gets sorted in the end, of course, and in a satisfactory fashion. Not many 1960s-era Wolfe novels favorites of mine, as Stout seemed determined to make up for decades of writing in a more prudish atmosphere when crafting plots that involve sex and other tawdry topics. Still, an afternoon spent with Archie Goodwin is never wasted.