The Red Box

March 19, 2009

Audiobook:The Red Box
Author:Rex Stout
Reader:Michael Pritchard
Audiobook 2009
Length: 8 hours

4 Stars

Available at:  The Audio Book Store

It is always great to see a classic title released in audio book format. Over the years many of the Rex Stout Nero Wolfe books have appeared in audio. The latest, The Red Box, is from early on in the Wolfe series, written in the 1930s and taking place in 1936. Stout has created one of the most distinctive characters in mystery fiction right up there with Christie’s Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple. Like Christie, Stout gives the reader a structured plot with an always interesting murder up front, lots of suspects and a denouement where all the parties are brought together while our detective explains the crime.

The death of a young model at a dress maker’s salon (remember this is before off-the-rack dresses) isn’t at all what it seems. Apparently she ate some poisoned candy. Was it murder, and was the victim the target? Wolfe is forced to do something he never does – leave his Brownstone on business – and he certainly isn’t happy with the results. His client doesn’t seem to be all that interested in finding out the answers or paying Wolfe’s $10,000 fee.

Archie Goodwin is his usual droll self, particularly when he works hard to stop Wolfe from a relapse, something that can have disastrous consequences for all concerned. Regular readers of this series will appreciate Archie’s fear of the dreaded relapse. It is only after the death of one of many suspects in Wolfe’s presence, does the frustrated detective get serious.

For these classic mysteries I don’t like to give too much plot. The listener should enjoy the story as it unfolds in style. Michael Pritchard has been reading this series for some time and has Wolfe’s genius and Archie’s wit down perfectly. These stories have none of the violence, sex or snappy cynical dialog that shows up today’s detective fiction. What they do have is a great sense of time and place as well as an adherence to the elements that make great detective fiction. When the murderer is revealed (I got it right about half way through) you are not surprised. You will be surprised about what’s in the Red Box, however.

I believe I read all of the Nero Wolfe books 30 years or so ago, but sometimes it’s worth a revisit. With over 30 titles in this series, those of you looking for a character to fall in love with all over again should take the time to get to know the very American Nero Wolfe.


Reviewed on 3/17/09 by Robert W. Karp




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