Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Nero Wolfe Reviews: "Too Many Women"

Rex Stout continued to gear up after WW II and 1947's Too Many Women reflected both the business boom in the post-war years as well as the reflection of women in the workplace at that time.

And we'll get into more in the review but for now, on with...

The Plot: The president of a large company comes to Wolfe when an employee who recently died in a hit-and-run accident is rumored to have been murdered. In order to keep the rumors from ruining the company Wolfe is charged with finding out if there is any truth and if there is to find the killer.

This sends Archie undercover at the company where he finds a bevy of beautiful secretaries and evidence that the murdered man was quite the lady-killer. But he wasn't the only one with romance in mind and in addition to that there are jealousies and in-fighting amongst the various employees on a professional level as well.

There are twists and turns aplenty as Wolfe and Archie not only try to figure out why the man was murdered but to prove to the police that it was murder to begin with! And there are enough women in the case that even Archie's vaunted charm may collapse under the effort!

My Take: I love Stout's stuff written at a contemporary time that is now past. He has a great talent for authentically capturing a way of life or a way of doing things that then becomes a snapshot for the time period.

Whereas his previous story, The Silent Speaker highlighted the tension between government regulation and business, this story takes the reader inside how companies operated in the post-war boom as well as seeing a little slice of the female workforce and the roles and attitudes women were relegated to at that time.

In addition, there is also Stout's usual quirky characters, strong personalities, driving passions, and psychological depths which continue to make his stories a joy to read.

Admittedly, Too Many Women does, occasionally, get a little bogged down in the detail and the action lags at a couple of points but it is not enough to ruin the rest of the story and the ending more than makes up for it.

Favorite Quote: Usually, I choose one of the more witty, cutting, or humorous quotes as a favorite but here I found Stout's description of Wall Street to be just as true today as it was in 1947: Those pyramids of profit down in the Wall Street section, ,sticking straight up nine hundred feet and more, are tenanted by everything from one-room midgets to ten-floor super-giants.

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