book: Homicide Trinity (1962) by Rex Stout


I was recently reading a rave about Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe stories on the blog of a crime-fiction enthusiast whose views I regard highly, and it reminded me it’s been quite a few years since last I read any Stout. Yes, I know he’s a darling of the critics, but for some reason I’ve never been able to regard his work highly.

So here I am with Homicide Trinity in front of me, attempting to mend the error of my ways.

Ho hum.

It’s a collection of three novellas, and between them the three reminded me of why I’ve never been able to get overly enthused about Stout’s fiction. It’s not that I dislike the character of Wolfe (although I do), it’s that the necessarily circumscribed arena in which much of the main action takes place — Wolfe’s NYC house, because he refuses to leave it except under duress — and the similar limitation on the action itself, Wolfe being a man of inviolable habit, mean that the stories tend to be a bit samey. That’s certainly true of the first two stories here, in which a small cast of suspects find themselves being interviewed by Wolfe, the guilt of the relevant party being revealed through their responses.

Somewhat the same template is observed in the third story, “Counterfeit for Murder,” yet for some reason I enjoyed it far more — perhaps because in it Archie Goodwin, Wolfe’s Watson, discovers that he can like a woman who isn’t young and short of skirt. The woman concerned, Hattie Annis, is the scruffy middle-aged owner of a downtown boarding house where she lets rooms to theatrical types, charging them rent if they can afford it, and she’s discovered in her little-used parlor a stash of counterfeit money. The solution to the mystery’s a bit crapola, to be honest — and flies, for no explained reason, into the teeth of an earlier-planted clue — but the character of Hattie is so glorious that I didn’t much care. Pfui, in other words.

I make no comment about the cover illustration.

So, read this for “Counterfeit for Murder,” is my advice. The other two are pleasant enough pieces, but hardly essential reading.

7 thoughts on “book: Homicide Trinity (1962) by Rex Stout

  1. You know I love just about anything by Stout (especially the Wolfe series), but I do like the novels better than the novellas. I remember Hattie Annis. Maybe my love of Archie is related to reading many of them in my early teens, and I have stayed faithful through many decades. I have many paperback editions with lovely covers, but I have never cared for the covers of the hardback editions. Except for Fer-de-lance, which was gorgeous and I would love to own.

    • Yes, I know you’re a Stout buff! It was your enthusiasm that led me to give him another try — for which, thanks: Although I remain unconvinced that Stout’s for me, I (as always) enjoyed stepping out of my customary territory.

  2. I lover Stout, especially his nooks about to about the mid 1950s and the novellas can be great. But must admit, I do tend to find it hard to remember them much after. Thought the TV series with Timothy Hutton as Goodwin and Maury Chaykin as Wolfe was superb (especially the first season).

    • I know that folk like yourself and Tracy — and lots of others! — regard Stout as the bee’s knees, but somehow I’ve just never managed to cotton on to him. Perhaps I should try a few episodes of that TV series as a portal.

  3. I am a fan of the Timothy Hutton Nero Wolfe series. I have also been watching the old TV series with William Conrad as Wolfe, not as good of course but I like Lee Horsley as Archie. And I have watched two episodes of the Italian Nero Wolfe series, which is fine although it takes much greater liberties with the stories.

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