Monday, February 25, 2019

Might as Well Be Dead by Rex Stout (1956)

About the author: Rex Stout (1886 – 1975) was an American writer noted for his detective fiction. His best-known characters are the detective Nero Wolfe and his assistant Archie Goodwin, who were featured in 33 novels and 39 novellas between 1934 and 1975. (wikipedia). (bibliography)

Major characters:

  • James R. Herold, Wolfe's client, father of...
  • Paul Herold, missing in NYC; a.k.a....
  • Peter Hays, on trial for murder of...
  • Michael M. Molloy, a.k.a. Richard Randall, husband of...
  • Selma Molloy, the widow, having an affair? with Peter Hays
  • Albert Freyer, attorney for Peter Hays
  • Delia Brandt, Molloy's secretary
  • Patrick A. Degan, friend of Michael Molloy, head of Mechanics Alliance Welfare Association
  • Jerry & Rita Arkoff, friends of Selma Molloy
  • Tom & Fanny Irwin, friends of Selma Molloy
  • Nero Wolfe, investigator
  • Archie Goodwin, investigator
  • Saul Panzer, operative
  • Fred Durkin, operative
  • Orrie Cather, operative
  • Johnny Keems, operative
Locale: New York City

Synopsis: James R. Herold of Nebraska hires Nero Wolfe to locate his missing son, Paul Herold; believed to be in New York City. Wolfe and Archie Goodwin find him right away, going by the name of Peter Hays, and unfortunately on trial for Murder One; and quickly convicted.

The victim, Michael M. Molloy, was found shot in his apartment. His wife, Selma Molloy, was apparently having an affair with Hays. Wolfe teams up with Hays' attorney, Albert Freyer, to see if this was a frame-up.

The killer had opportunity when Selma went to the theatre with her friends Jerry and Rita Arkoff and Tom and Fanny Irwin. The question is who got her to go away and leave Molloy alone? While operative Johnny Keems go to ask them, he is run over and killed by a hit-and-run driver.

Selma is in need of an administrator to handle her husband's estate, and asks friend Patrick A. Degan

The police had closed the case with the conviction of Hays, but reopen it when bodies continue to turn up as Wolfe gets closer to the real killer.


Archie Goodwin again narrates a page turner, while resisting getting involved with the attractive widow. I did find it surprising the NYC police put such efforts into locating a missing person - who is an adult and wishes to remain missing. I don't think that would do that today.

There is no appearance by Lily Rowan, a usual pleasant side attraction.

The smoothly operating Wolfe household is always an incentive for me to clean up my office and dust my globe.

On a sad note, this is the book in which one of Wolfe's regular operatives gets written out of the series.

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