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Too Many Cooks Rex Stout Nero Wolfe

Too Many Cooks (a Nero Wolfe novel) by Rex Stout

Review of Too Many Cooks Nero Wolfe by Rex Stout

A couple of chapters into Too Many Cooks by Rex Stout, a woman named Dina Laszio, the wife of famed chef Phillip Laszio, comes to Nero Wolfe to say that she is afraid someone is trying to poison her husband. She knows Wolfe doesn’t owe her anything and probably doesn’t hold her in high regard, but in seeking his help she says, “I count on your sense of justice … your humanity … .”

Wolfe’s brusque reply is: “Weak supports, madam.” He continues by offering this typically jaundiced aphorism: “Few of us have enough wisdom for justice, or enough leisure for humanity.”

Indeed, one of the gifts which Rex Stout imparted to his creation, Nero Wolfe, was the gift for aphorism. And the one delivered there is in its way a wonderful summary of how he looks at things. He is a great detective, but he doesn’t see his role as setting the world right or solving everyone’s problems. He has a pronounced sense of his own flaws and of those things which make him ill-suited to the society of others, but he is not out to fix himself either. Rather, he endeavors to accommodate his kind of misanthropy by arranging his life in such a particular way that he deals with others only on his own terms and timing. He uses his skill as a detective to make a lot of money, and, occasionally, for pursuing an end when his own sense of self-respect is offended. He does the job, but he doesn’t credit even himself with “enough wisdom for justice,” which is a much purer concept, and certainly he does not consider that he has “enough leisure for humanity.”

Rex Stout’s series of Nero Wolfe books are so deeply beloved, I think, not because of brain-teasing mysteries—though the crime and mystery are the pegs which hold the rest—but rather the pleasure of being immersed in Nero Wolfe’s beautifully constructed household and routine, and enjoying the interplay and competition between him and his assistant Archie Goodwin—the narrator—as well as the extended family of regulars, including Fritz the chef, Cramer the police inspector, and so on. Every day proceeds with its glorious routine of a superb breakfast, a trip to the plant rooms, a ride down the elevator to the office to read the mail and possibly conduct business, an invariably wonderful lunch, another trip to the plant rooms, another interval in the office for business, an always-remarkable dinner, and then one final possibility for interviewing suspects/witnesses/clients in the office before bed. Wolfe never leaves his house for business (at least that is his rule), and rarely for pleasure, as he as arranged all of his pleasures so close at hand: his food, his orchids, his books and his beer. Continue reading Too Many Cooks (a Nero Wolfe novel) by Rex Stout