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And Be a Villain (Nero Wolfe #13)

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  2,351 ratings  ·  98 reviews
Radio talk show host Madeline Fraser's fear of dead air becomes literal when a guest keels over after drinking a glass of her sponsor's beverage. Enter Nero Wolfe and his assistant, Archie. Nero lends his considerable sleuthing skills to the case but soon discovers that everyone connected to the case is lying about it. What's more, the portly private eye soon learns that t ...more
Published June 1st 1948 by Viking (first published 1948)
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Nero Wolfe needs money yet again. I know I sound like a broken record, but this is how the majority of the series' books start. He sends Archie Goodwin to see a popular radio talk show host Madeline Fraser (think Oprah Winfrey before the era of TV) to accept his services in investigating a sensational murder which happened recently right in the middle of the show: a guest drank some soft drink from the show sponsors and fell dead. The murder seems to be completely random as there was no way to i ...more
First, let me just say that when I was 16 and read this I never even registered that Archie Goodwin is ageist. At 29, his comments about no women over 30 being worth a look gave me a strong desire to give him a good "talking to." Anyway, on to the book. Honestly, And Be a Villian: A Nero Wolfe Novel disappointed me. I will re-read at least one more of Rex Stout's books, but I have a terrible suspicion that the Nero Wolfe series will go on the list of things that didn't hold up for me over time. ...more
This book was the perfect antidote to readers malaise. After finishing a Nobel Prize winner's dense (and seemingly endless) novel, I knew I needed to return to an old friend and that was a Nero Wolfe mystery.

I have probably read this book five times, but I never tire of Nero Wolfe's grumpiness, Archie's cheekiness, and Fritz's cuisine (I am now absolutely longing for corn fritters!).

Stout's Arnold Zeck novels are among my favorites of the many Nero Wolfe mysteries; he is akin to Sherlock Holmes
Colin Smith
I enjoyed this adventure with Nero Wolfe, the quintessential armchair detective, and his assistant/secretary/accountant/dogsbody Archie Goodwin. Wolfe picks up a case of cyanide poisoning that has the police baffled. The intended victim seems to have been a tipster who was a guest on a popular radio show discussing his racing tips. But everyone at the radio station seem to get along, so no-one is pointing fingers. But as Nero Wolfe questions the parties, and, with Archie's help, digs deeper, all ...more
Alexis Neal
Wolfe needs money. After all, those orchids don't pay for themselves. So, in a virtually unprecedented move, he actually solicits a job. Well-known radio host Madeline Fraser is in a pickle. During each broadcast of her hugely successful radio show, she and her various guests indulge in a bottle of Hi-Spot (a show sponsor). It's a big hit with the sponsor and the public. Until, that is, radio guest Cyril Orchard winds up drinking a big ol' glass of cyanide . . . on the air. The police are at a l ...more
I don't know why it's taken me so long to pick up a Nero Wolfe mystery. This book was a fun read. Set (and written) in the 1940's, Nero Wolfe is the brains and Archie Goodwin is his braun. Wolfe rarely leaves his apartment, leaving Archie to gather people and clues in the case for him. They make a great team and a great read.
William Redd
I've been watching a lot of private investigator television and films lately on Netflix, which put me in the mood to go back and read some of the great detective fiction from the 40s. This one has been sitting in my to-read pile for too long, so I figured it was time.

Nero Wolfe, armchair detective extraordinaire. The man solves crimes without ever leaving his home. Instead he relies on his associate, Archie Goodwin, to seek out all pertinent information and report back for Wolfe to put his mind
Alison C
Although I've been trying to read the Nero Wolfe novels in chronological order, there are a few that have been hard to come by; And Be A Villain, published in 1948, is one that I've had to read out of sequence. Not that much changes in terms of the main characters from one book to another, but author Rex Stout occasionally mentions a previously-solved case in passing, so I try to be aware of all the books that have gone before, if I can. In any event, this one involves a star female radio talk s ...more
Prime Rex Stout delivery during his best period with the Archie and Nero characters. This is the point where the situations still mattered enough to be plotted out and logical, and the lifestyle and attitudes of the characters were in synch with the times.

Like most Nero Wolfe stories, the actual murder is not hard to resolve. Their obligation as detectives seems mostly to be asking the right person the right question, so the charm of a Wolfe mystery is how they ask the questions.

This volume may
Never have I downgraded a book 2 stars for ONE sentence before; but:
Archie: "I am not incapable of using force on a woman, since after all men have never found anything else to use on them with any great success when it comes right down to it..." -- Really, Rex? Really?

This sentence was so offensive, that I would have downgraded any other book automatically to 1 star. It is, however, Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe series and as such I can't go below a 3 as much as I am turned off by the violent misogyn
Christopher Rush
If I call this "another satisfactory addition" to the Nero Wolfe canon, you should realize that is no slight against this book. It would be impractical to require each Wolfe novel to be an innovative, life-altering humdinger. This is another enjoyable Wolfe story, which dallies with tedium at times but refrains from indulging too much (even more successfully than Too Many Women) and provides nice moments both of tension and humor. We are treated to a surprising rare scene in this story: Wolfe gi ...more
Jan C
Not sure if I read this one before or not.

I like the Nero Wolfe stories. And this was no different. Enjoyable.

This edition contained an introduction by Maan Meyers a/k/a Martin & Annette Meyers.

Hard to believe, there was a time when not everyone had a television and folks would gather 'round the radio, just like we gather 'round the TV now (well, maybe we don't gather so much as we used to; but when I was growing up we gathered). This one takes place in 1948 and I know we didn't get a telev
I am in the process of rereading (listening to the perfectly matched Michael Pritchard) many of the Rex Stout Nero Wolfe/Archie Goodwin mysteries. They hold up very well; in fact, as each novel takes place contemporaneous to its writing, many could be considered period pieces. And be a Villain takes place in 1948 so there are no cell phones, everything is typed, etc. Commercials were done live on the radio, and that features prominently in the mystery as one of the murders is committed on-the-ai ...more
While this isn't the best Nero Wolfe novel, it's still enjoyable, if only to see Arnold Zeck make an appearance.

Zeck is something like Wolfe's answer to Professor Moriarty, and Wolfe nearly goes up against the crime lord in this one.

While it isn't the greatest, you do get some solid Archie/Wolfe moments, and Archie threatens to quit at least once for some pretty decent chuckles. And seeing how he and Wolfe respond to the NYPD is pretty much worth the price of admission.

The things that don't work
Thomas Paul
Nero Wolfe needs a case and fortunately a murder occurs right on the radio for Wolfe to solve. One of the guests on the Madeline Fraser radio program has been poisoned. At first it looks like the murderer may have killed the wrong person but Wolfe isn't so sure. So he offers the host, the station, and the sponsors (the victim was killed with poison placed in a sample of the soda of one of the sponsors) for the opportunity to hire him to solve the case and they all jump at the chance.

In a big cas
Nan Silvernail
A radio talk show guest dies on air after taking a drink of a sponsor's product, Hi Spot Cola. This is a nightmare for the program, the sponsor and for the guests. The police are not making any headway. Archie points out that Nero Wolfe's taxes are due. So Wolfe decides to solve the case to earn a nice, fat fee. Simple, right? Oh, no. So very wrong!

Here Be Spoilers

First, Yay for the cover art. Very well done!

Alas! Wolfe does not end up solving this
And Be A Villain is the first, but probably not the last, Nero Wolfe mystery I'll be reading this year. Rex Stout has created two very enjoyable, very unforgettable characters in Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. In this mystery, they are almost actually working with the police to solve a high profile murder. Wolfe has been hired by a radio personality. One of her guests was murdered--poisoned--while on her show. Awkward indeed. The radio show is sponsored by a beverage company, and the guest's dri ...more
This recording was transferred from cassette tapes, and the constant change-over remarks are annoying, breaking up the story; and this book in particular has the sounds of coming from an old tape, sort of patchy sounds.

Interesting bits about life in those days, including filing tax returns in March, in this story about a death on a very popular radio program. Was the poison meant for the host or the guest?
Katie Bodden
Nero Wolfe books have both mystery, humor, and random action. I found this one to be funny and fast paced. in the times when the writer is trying to portray lack of movement it felt as if the book moved smoothly and quickly. I love the character developments made about people who both matter and don't to the plot. You get a real sense of feeling like your a part of everything and it draws you in. The book is easy to enjoy and a quick read.
Jason Shaffner
"Usually when you hire a man to do something he thinks you're the boss. When you hire Wolfe he thinks he's the boss. He's a genius and that's merely one of the ways it shows." You have to love that premise and the wry narrative voice of Archie Goodwin. This one was a whole lot of fun. One big gaping unexplained hole, but I'll let it pass in exchange for the good time I had from cover to cover.
rex stout at the top of his game. i always imagined that a mystery featuring just archie goodwin would slip all too easily into a fun but cartoony universe (the kind where a villain might respond to archie's quips with a drawled "oh, a wise guy, ehhhhhh?" while chomping on an unlit cigar), whereas a mystery featuring just nero wolfe would quickly stall into inertia and boredom, like a sherlock holmes story where sherlock does the narrating (they do exist. and they are interminably tedious). arch ...more
Karen Jones
Rex stout is a master of subtle, tongue in cheek humor. The characters are well written, and yet timeless. I have read many of the Nero Wolfe books and found them all well written. Many I have read in the '70's and '80's and I am now re-reading with delight. It's like re-acquainting with old friends.
I am slowly working my way (in publication order) through the entire Nero Wolfe series for the second time. And Be a Villain is the 13th Nero Wolfe book, but the first of the Zeck trilogy (continuing with The Second Confession and ending with In the Best Families). With the exception of these three books (and the final book, A Family Affair, which must be read last), it really doesn't matter what order you read them in. Just read them.

As with all the Nero Wolfe books, discovering the identity of
Jeff Dickison
Fair Nero Wolfe entry as he must solve a mystery of a radio show guest dying of arsenic poisoning after drinking the sponsor's bevarage. There is not a lot of excitement in this one. It moves quite slowly. Recommended only for fans of Nero Wolfe.
I adore the Nero Wolfe mysteries--and they are terrific audiobooks. Wolfe's and his sidekick Archie Goodwin's obsession with good food and fine flowers actually runs second to their obsession with integrity, logic, and clear-eyed thinking. These are the qualities that make the books such comforts: Wolfe is a person fully in control of his environment -- an increasingly appealing fantasy for me -- but he is also someone who can extract the truth from witnesses simply by the force of his reputatio ...more
I am not a good mystery reader. I know I'm looking for a mystery and having read a fair bit I can generally feel out the plot line quickly. I read too quickly to savor the mystery, too intent on following the breadcrumb clues to their conclusion.

The Inspector Ian Rutledge books I fly through because I'm as interested in the characters as I am the mystery (having hung in there for 10+books now.)

This is the first of this series I've read - it being a gift from a close friend. Although it was #13 i
One of the best of the series, and of period mysteries in general. There are terrific twists and curves in this story, though with a little less of the usual business between Archie, Wolfe and Fritz that holds the stories together.
Graham Powell
Not my favorite Wolfe. A guest on a radio talk show drops dead while on the air. Who could have killed him? Seemed a bit slow to me.
Shannon Martinson
Wolfe's bank accounts are getting low, and he proposes to a radio personality to solve a murder she was unfortunately involved in. First he must sort out whether the victim was the intended victim, or whether he was accidentally murdered by someone who wished to kill the popular host of the radio show he was a guest on at the time. And he must work out how, or if, the betting tip sheet published by the victim figures into it.[return][return]I always enjoy Nero Wolfe mysteries - it always feels l ...more
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Rex Todhunter Stout (December 1, 1886 – October 27, 1975) was an American crime writer, best known as the creator of the larger-than-life fictional detective Nero Wolfe, described by reviewer Will Cuppy as "that Falstaff of detectives." Wolfe's assistant Archie Goodwin recorded the cases of the detective genius from 1934 (Fer-de-Lance) to 1975 (A Family Affair).

The Nero Wolfe corpus was nominated
More about Rex Stout...

Other Books in the Series

Nero Wolfe (1 - 10 of 47 books)
  • Fer-de-Lance (Nero Wolfe, #1)
  • The League of Frightened Men (Nero Wolfe, #2)
  • The Rubber Band (Nero Wolfe, #3)
  • The Red Box (Nero Wolfe, #4)
  • Too Many Cooks (Nero Wolfe, #5)
  • Some Buried Caesar (Nero Wolfe, #6)
  • Over My Dead Body (Nero Wolfe, #7)
  • Where There's a Will (Nero Wolfe, #8)
  • Black Orchids (Nero Wolfe, #9)
  • Not Quite Dead Enough (Nero Wolfe, #10)
Fer-de-Lance (Nero Wolfe, #1) Some Buried Caesar (Nero Wolfe, #6) Too Many Cooks (Nero Wolfe, #5) The League of Frightened Men (Nero Wolfe, #2) Black Orchids (Nero Wolfe, #9)

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