The Second Confession is the second of three Nero Wolfe novels that involve crime boss Arnold Zeck and his widespread operations. (The others are And Be a Villain and In the Best Families.) In this, Wolfe investigates Louis Rony.
This novel not only gives Nero full play for all his egocentricities but also provides Archie with a satisfying number of opportunities to risk his neck, to fall into what he never calls love, and to be baffled simultaneously by an exceptionally well-concealed murderer and an infuriatingly noncommittal Nero.
Probably never before has the reader of a detective story been given quite so full an array of facts; never has the murderer been at the same time so clearly pointed out and yet so bafflingly concealed. We suspect that a lot of people who will presently be talking about The Second Confession will be opening the conversation with some such praise as "Not since I read Agatha Christie's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd . . ."
A fanatic millionaire, a lawless politician, and a gangland boss all wanted Nero Wolfe to do things their way. Money was no object—neither was life or death . . . .
"Wolfe shook his head. 'You're expecting a good deal of yourself. I'm more than twice your age, and up with you in self-esteem, but I'm afraid of someone. Don't overdo it. There are numerous layers of honesty, and the deepest should not have a monopoly.'" (p. 195)
"On the long list of things that cops don't like, up near the top is acting as if finding a corpse is a purely private matter."
I've read Christie and I've read Sayers, but I've never touched Stout or even knew much about his works. So when Ms. Alice brought him up, mentioning that Archie Goodwin is a fictional fantasy man of hers, I decided to pick up a book while I was at the library. They didn't have the first in the series, so I picked a title at random.
The plot of The Second Confession starts with a powerful executive wanting to hire Nero Wolfe to prove his prospective son-in-law is a Communist. That leads us through schemes and spying, doped drinks and fingernails to the face, Commies and the series's answer to Moriarty, a man named Zeck. It was a neat labyrinth, with the end being both ingenious and and head-smackingly obvious.
What I was interested in, however, were the characters. It is a series, after all, and one should certainly get to know one's narrator!
So. We have Nero Wolfe. He is a large man, and he is an orchid-fancier. He is also a rather reclusive genius, solving things mainly from his comfy office chair, like a more surly Mycroft Holmes. His right-hand man is Archie Goodwin, who Wikipedia tells me is from Ohio. Holla! I liked him immediately. He's very funny and witty without being a snob. He's also quite a hit with the ladies. A private eye living on the edges of the law who is always ready with a retort is sexy, donchaknow.
I am interested in how these two came into contact. They seem mutually devoted to each other, but I don't know why yet. I also don't yet know what Goodwin or Wolfe look like, except for fat in the case of the latter. I'm looking forward to reading more about these two. [Alex / http://xrae.typepad.com/blog/]