In the Best Families: First Edition
In the Best Families: First Edition


IN THE BEST FAMILIES is the final of three Nero Wolfe novels that involve crime boss Arnold Zeck and his widespread operations. 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)

What an absolute treat to read this book! I was actually looking for something else in Barnes & Noble, and saw this series featuring detective Nero Wolfe.  I have known the name of the fictional detective forever, it seems like, but have never, til now, read one of the books.  But Mystery Lovers, this is a treasure, as I am sure the other books in the series are, so let's start enjoying Rex Stout's witty dialog and intriguing plots that our parents and grands likely ate up!

In the Best Families, was published originally in 1950, but it has aged beautifully.  You might even brush up your vocabulary a little bit without even trying!

Yes I had heard of Nero Wolfe but really knew nothing about him and his distinctive detecting style.  He is super intelligent, like Sherlock Holmes, but he never leaves his office.  He is grossly overweight and really into his exotic orchid collection ... so how does he detect, you may ask.  He has a personal secretary/private eye combo on staff, Archie Goodwin, who is also the narrator of the book. Archie does the on site detecting and Wolfe does the analyzing and crime solving, with lots of quick wit and sass along the way. 

In this story, the aging millionaire Mrs. Rackham comes to meet Wolfe in his office with her cousin in tow.  She insists on absolute secrecy and discretion, but she wants Wolfe to find out the source of her much younger husband's flow of money, since she knows she has not been giving him any of late.
Nero Wolfe is not inclined to take the case, and as he is telling her this, she is writing him a $10,000 check. Upon reflection, he decides to take the case. 

The next morning, a package Wolfe had been expecting is delivered, but it turns out to be a tear gas bomb, followed in short order by an ominous threatening phone call suggesting that Wolfe decline the Rackham case. And before Wolfe has lifted a finger to solve the case, Mrs. Rackham and her pet Doberman pinscher are murdered on the grounds of her estate. The next thing Archie knows, Nero Wolfe has abandoned his home and left no forwarding address.  His brief written message to Archie includes the directive NOT to search for him!

Looks like Archie has a difficult choice:  either return the money to Mrs. Rackham's estate, or figure out her husband's mysterious source of income, and along the way, perhaps solve the murder mystery as well!

from Vicki Goode's "Goode Read's" Blogspot: