rex stout

Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge 2011 – Completion

I participated on the Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge 2011 hosted by the wonderful Bev Hankins of My Readers Block. My participation level was “In a Murderous Mood” where one had to read four-six books from the mystery category written before 1960,

I completed the challenge last month.

We had been told that we’ll be receiving prizes beforehand and I was pretty excited about it. And as promised I received The Crooked Hinge by John Dickson Carr.

For a mystery buff like me this is truly exciting! So, here’s a big ‘Thank you’ to Bev!

Books Completed:

1. Dead Man’s Folly. Agatha Christie.

2. The Mystery of the Yellow Room. Gaston Leroux.

3. The Circular Staircase. Mary Roberts Rinehart.

4. The Murder at the Vicarage. Agatha Christie.

5. Plot It Yourself . Rex Stout.

6. The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Agatha Christie.

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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