In both And Be a Villain and The Second Confession, Nero Wolfe had sharp but long-distance encounters with a certain powerful mystery man of crime named Zeck. That Zeck was a blackmailer was obvious. That he was perhaps the most potent and utterly ruthless of all underworld characters seemed more than possible. These episodes hinted that in some future book Zeck would play a leading role -- and now he does, in this new full-length novel.
It all begins when a woman whose homeliness is exceeded only by her wealth brings to Nero the problem of discovering where her handsome husband has been getting the money she refused him. Next, Nero answers his phone and Zeck, on the other end, says, "Lay off this case." Nero once told Archie that if he ever had to come to grips with Zeck, he would disappear first so as not to endanger Archie, his orchid plants, or his house in lower Manhattan, and Nero is a man of his word.
[Lily Rowan:] "I'm the only woman in America who has necked with Nero Wolfe. Nightmare, my eye. He has a flair." (p. 97)