Thursday, September 20, 2012

Forgotten Book: R is for Rex Stout's The Mother Hunt

"How old are you?"

That was for my benefit. he had a triple conviction: that a) his animus toward women made it impossible for him to judge any single specimen; that b) I needed only an hour with any woman alive to tag her; and that c) he could help out by asking some blunt impertinent question, his favorite one being how old are you. It's hopeless to try to set him right.



I had heard of Nero Wolfe but had no idea how big (ahem!)  he was till I started blogging. Unfortunately the libraries that I frequent do not seem to stock Rex Stout and it was only this year that I saw one lying amongst a pile of books in a second-hand book shop and pounced on it.

Recently widowed, Lucy Valdon, contacts Wolfe to trace the mother of a baby left in her vestibule. The baby boy had a note pinned to his blanket which said that the baby was the son of Lucy's dead husband, the writer, Richard Valdon. Lucy has no problem with adopting the baby but she wants to know whether the note is true and if so, who happens to be the mother of the baby.

After making Lucy understand that it is going to be an expensive affair, Wolfe has a list drawn of all the female acquaintances of her husband. However, all the hundred and forty-eight women on it turn out not to be the woman they are looking for. A break comes in the shape of the special kind of buttons that the baby had on his dress when he was left at Lucy's. Before the lead can turn to be more fruitful however, the first murder occurs...



This was my first Wolfe and I enjoyed it. Loved Archie Goodwin's narrative style. Loved the supporting cast of Saul, Fred, and Orrie, the three detectives who do the leg-work for Wolfe; and Fritz, the cook, who has a  cyclical way of asking questions. The book was humorous though at times I wanted to shake Wolfe and ask him to act rather than sit back and read books. Now if only it did not have one of the most pathetic motives for murder that I have ever read.

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First Line: When the doorbell rang a little after eleven that Tuesday morning in early June and I went to the hall and took a look through the one-way glass panel in the front door, I saw what, or whom, I expected to see: a face a little too narrow, gray eyes a little too big, and a figure a little too thin for the best curves.

Title: The Mother Hunt

Author: Rex Stout

Publication Details: NY: Bantam Books, 1981

First published: 1963

Pages: 138

Other Books read of the same author: None

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The book can be purchased online. I bought it from the second-hand books market at Chandigarh.

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Submitted for the following challenges: Mystery and Suspense, and New Authors

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Entry for letter R in the Crime Fiction Alphabet meme

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Entry for Friday's Forgotten Books

10 comments:

  1. Rex Stout's books featuring Nero Wolfe are wonderfulyl entertaining and eccentric - I'm not always good at distinguishing one from another but I always, always enjoye reading them (or re-reading them). The TV series starring Timothy Hutton as Archie and the layte Maury Chaykin as Nero is great fun incidentally.

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    1. Thanks for visiting Sergio.

      The book was hugely entertaining though the motive for murder was wafer-thin. I am looking forward to reading more of Stout.

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  2. I found Archie's narrative style in this book to be at a very high level, certainly higher than in most of Stout's later, post-1960 works. In addition, I remember the book to be hilarious at times, which helped to make the rather odd and meandering plot more palatable.

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    1. Welcome to the blog, Yankee Cowboy



      You are absolutely right, the humour did make up for the rather weak plot.

      Certain parts of the books had me in splits. There is one incident where Wolfe Wolfe declares pompously that he'd rather sleep under a bridge and eat scraps than submit a client to official harassment.

      Police officer Cramer's response is priceless: "You eating scraps. Good God."


      Thanks for visiting. Hope you visit often.

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  3. Oh, I'm so glad you enjoyed your first 'visit' with Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. Aren't they great characters? And I couldn't agree with you more about Archie Goodwin as narrator. He's fabulous. I admit I'm biased but I really hope you'll get the chance to read more of Rex Stout's work.

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    1. They are great characters and Archie's tongue-in-cheek narrative style is absolutely fabulous.

      I'll surely be reading more of Stout. He has already become one of those authors whom I pick up indiscriminately.

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  4. I have enjoyed many of the Nero Wolfe stories and novels. Reading several of them the characters became a family, strange in construction, but a family.

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    1. Welcome to the blog, Bill.

      Though I have read only this one, the characters do seem very likable. Totally understand what you mean by family.

      I would love to read more of Stout, and have you visit often.

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  5. glad you enjoyed it, you must give some buried caesar a try.

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    1. Thanks for the suggestion Rishi. I'll see how I can get hold of that book. A Very happy new year to you.

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