Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Nero Wolfe of West Thirty-Fifth Street: Review

I remember reading William S. Baring-Gould's Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street long ago and far away and being very impressed with it. So, when I came across a similar book purporting to give all the details on Nero Wolfe, his home, members of his household, and his cases, I naturally expected to be similarly impressed. Of course, it's 30-some years later and I'm a different person from the teenager who read the first book. That might explain my disappointment. It's also possible that Baring-Gould, who was known as a noted Holmes scholar, may not have been quite so invested in the story of America's largest private eye. Either way--I wasn't nearly as interested in this book as I remember being in the Holmes "biography."

I was not particularly convinced by his "evidence" explaining Wolfe's parentage. I was even less convinced at the connections he tried to make between Archie Goodwin and Wolfe. The first section of the book which gives the details on Wolfe's background (separate from the parentage speculations) and the description of life in the brownstone home and its inhabitants as well as recurring characters in the stories was quite good and informative. Though all the information is readily available in the novels, it's nice to have it summed up all in one place. The chronology at the back which lists all novels and stories up to 1969 is also helpful. Less so are the flights of fancy about parentage and the synopses of books. While you can't accuse Baring-Gould of spoiling any of the stories by revealing too much, there are numerous synopses which tell barely anything about the story at all. 

This is a decent reference book for those interested in the Nero Wolfe stories. But not quite as interesting or impressive as I expected from Baring-Gould. ★★

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