And Four to Go is a set of four short stories, all featuring Nero Wolfe and his not always stalwart assistant, Archie Goodwin. Although Rex Stout’s books are very easy to find, this is actually my first foray into his written work. Having watched the television series which aired in the early 2000’s, and enjoying it, I thought I’d give this a try. Interestingly, three of the four stories are holiday themed, but the last is not. I have no idea how it is supposed to fit in, or what the thinking was on that…and more than likely never will.
Following an attempt to tweak Wolfe with his supposed upcoming marriage, Archie finds himself at his “fiancé’s” Christmas party, which comes equipped with a professional Santa as bartender. When the host dies after drinking poisoned Pernod and Santa scarpers, Archie and Wolfe have to do some fancy maneuvering to uncover the murderer, and keep the police from unmasking Santa.
Wolfe wants to see Mr. Millard Bynoe’s flamingo-pink Vanda, but of course that would mean leaving the brownstone. So obviously Archie must take up orchid pinching. Things don’t go quite as planned and while the orchid gets snatched, the wearer gets murdered. Archie’s in another pickle. Can Wolfe pick out the real culprit?
Fourth of July Picnic
Wolfe has grudgingly agreed to be one of many speakers at the Independence Day Picnic of the United Restaurant Workers of America. While waiting to give his speech he discovers the dead body of one of the other speakers. Archie helps matters along by thwarting all of his attempts to evade what he finds an “intolerable situation”.
Murder Is No Joke
Flora Gallant thinks Bianca Voss has a hold over her brother Alec, and wants to Wolfe to put a to put a stop to what she considers blackmail. Wolfe makes a call to Voss, during which he and Archie hear sounds of a struggle and then silence. She’s been killed, with Wolfe and Archie as star witnesses. Unfortunately for the murderer Wolfe believes he’s been duped, and he will find out by who.
Okay, let’s just say that I wasn’t overly impressed with Stout. The stories are essentially all the same, only the characters and situations are different. As for any mystery, there isn’t much. The culprit is fairly easy to pick out, and there is minimal investigation. Wolfe sits in his chair, puffs his lips in and out, says “Pfui”, has Archie call all the suspects together, and he identifies the murderer.
There’s nothing terribly wrong with this collection. But while these particular stories are lightweight, funny, and entertaining, there isn’t anything here that makes me want to run out and get more Stout.
My Judgment – 3.5/5
2020 Vintage Mystery Challenge – Commandments/Rules/Common Devices: #4 No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end. (Knox). No use of the hypodermic syringe and the knockout drops.
Calendar of Crime – July #4 Independence Day