Plot It Yourself by Rex Stout

I’m a fan of British cosy mysteries. I rarely read any of the American crime/mystery novels, although I do have some experience with the noir and the pulp genre. Plot It Yourself  kind of falls in the middle of these genres. It is not violent (à la cosy mysteries) but it feels somewhat grittier.

Plot It Yourself written by Rex Stout was published in 1959. This novel features Stout’s creation Detective Nero Wolfe. It was published in the UK under the title Murder in Style.

Accusations of plagiarism are sending shock waves through the writer-publisher fraternity. A committee of writers and publishers come to Nero Wolfe as a last resort. But even Wolfe is baffled by this case of  ‘plagiarism upside down’.

This is my first Nero Wolfe book. I know this is not the first book in the series. Starting as I did in the middle of a series of books, there is a good chance I’m missing a lot of background information.

Wolfe seems very inactive here and I don’t mean physically. It takes him forever to figure everything out. By the time he does do something, a couple of dead bodies have already piled up. But Wolfe admits he has bungled the case so maybe Stout wanted his detective to appear inactive in this book.

The final revelation was pretty good but nothing spectacular. I found both Wolfe’s and the criminal’s reactions really weird.

I didn’t enjoy the way women were portrayed in this book. It is not sexist or anything. But the characters of Alice Porter, Amy Wynn, Jane Ogilvy all feel a bit off in some way.

The character of Archie Goodwin provides a nice balance to Nero Wolfe. I enjoyed their banters.

The police are portrayed as totally incompetent and very, very uncooperative. I wonder if they are like that in all of the Nero Wolfe mysteries.

My first Nero Wolfe mystery was enjoyable. I may read more of them in the future. But I have not become a fan. Overall, Plot It Yourself is a good mystery but not wholly satisfying.

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2 comments

  1. I’m a Brit mystery fan myself. Rex Stout is one of the American authors that I do like. I’ll definitely take him any day over the hardboiled school!

    I’ve got you updated on the Vintage site.

    1. I can’t get enough of the British mysteries!

      I do like Rex Stout enough to want to read more mysteries by him. The hardboiled genre I find kind of misogynistic. I don’t really like it.

      Thanks for the update! 🙂

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