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Champagne for One (Nero Wolfe #31)

4.04  ·  Rating Details ·  2,104 Ratings  ·  104 Reviews
Faith Usher talked about taking her own life and even kept cyanide in her purse. So when she died from a lethal champagne cocktail in the middle of a high society dinner party, everyone called it suicide—including the police. But Nero Wolfe isn’t convinced—and neither is Archie. Especially when Wolfe is warned by four men against taking the case. Deception, blackmail, and ...more
Paperback, 205 pages
Published December 8th 1995 by Crimeline (first published November 24th 1958)
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Mar 16, 2015 Evgeny rated it really liked it
A sick friend asks Archie Goodwin to attend a charity dinner at a millionaire's widow home. One of the guests drops dead seemingly committing a suicide. The hostess does not want big publicity and thus she applies a lot of pressure on the District Attorney to conclude the investigation as soon as possible without looking at the suicide too closely - she has enough money to do it. Archie is the only person who is convinced he saw murder and he is ready to put his professional reputation at risk ...more
Description: Faith Usher talked about taking her own life and even kept cyanide in her purse. So when she died from a lethal champagne cocktail in the middle of a high society dinner party, everyone called it suicide—including the police. But Nero Wolfe isn’t convinced—and neither is Archie. Especially when Wolfe is warned by four men against taking the case. Deception, blackmail, and a killer who may have pulled off the perfect crime…it’ s a challenge Nero Wolfe can’t resist.

The TV show episode
Bill  Kerwin
Oct 30, 2016 Bill Kerwin rated it really liked it

A young woman is poisoned during a dinner party held annually-- according the terms of the will of an eccentric benefactor--for the "graduates" of a home for unwed mothers. Archie--pinch-hitting as an escort for the the evening--is the only one convinced that the poisoning isn't suicide. Wolfe gets involved--of course. Reluctantly? Of course.

Ingeniously plotted, with some unusually vivid characters and scenes. One of the best of the series.
Mike Coleman
Mar 17, 2014 Mike Coleman rated it it was amazing
My father believed that, after the Nero Wolfe series, the world had no further need for new mystery novels. I tend to agree.

I enjoy the contemporary mysteries by Michael Connelly, Elizabeth George, Patricia Cornwell, Louise Penny and many others, but then I go back to the Rex Stout books and realize that much of what has come afterward in the mystery genre is just so much "look-at-me" shouting. "I can write about child abuse." "I can write about mutilation of women." "I can describe an autopsy t
May 25, 2015 Tony rated it really liked it
CHAMPAGNE FOR ONE. (1958). Rex Stout. ****.
Once you get past the silly plot premise, you soon get wrapped up in a pretty good mystery featuring Nero Wolfe and his private secretary Archie. Archie gets a call from an old friend of his who needs a favor. His friend has a cold and can’t make it to a party that he was invited to by his aunt. The party was for the benefit of an organization for unwed mothers. Four of these young women had been invited to dinner, along with four young men who were to
Mar 06, 2012 Bev rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rex Stout's Champagne for One comes garnished with an unhealthy dose of cyanide.

This outing for Nero Wolfe and his leg man Archie Goodwin doesn't begin with a client. No. It begins when Archie does one of his good deeds and acts as a stand-in dinner guest for an acquaintance, "Dinky" Austin Byne. Byne claims to have a cold and wants Archie to attend a black tie function at his aunt's house in his stead. Archie knows full well that Byne's cold is non-existent, but is curious enough about the dinn
Jan 16, 2013 Sophie rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013-books
The best thing about any Nero Wolfe book for me is Archie's cynical, snarky commentary. Archie has no illusions about anyone, least of all Wolfe, and it is always entertaining to watch him doing his best to upset his boss's equanimity. Champagne for One is unusual in one respect, though, I don't think I've read a Nero Wolfe mystery before that didn't involve at least some love interest for Archie (not that "love interest" is exactly the right term for Archie's exploits, but it's Nero-Wolfe-perio ...more
Lukasz Pruski
Sep 02, 2014 Lukasz Pruski rated it it was ok
Rex Stout's "Champagne for One" (1958) is the second Nero Wolfe mystery that I have randomly chosen to re-read in a quest to find out whether my reception of the novels that I highly praised when I read the entire set (46) of Wolfe mysteries in the Eighties and Nineties has changed. I review the first one, "The Mother Hunt" here .

Archie Goodwin, Nero Wolfe's right hand, is invited to sit in for the sick nephew of a very rich woman who sponsors a famous annual charity party for unmarried mothers
Jun 27, 2012 meeners rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
one of rex stout's better mysteries. i have a hunch that longtime fans of stout will like this book regardless, while non-mystery readers most likely won't see the appeal. but feel free to prove me wrong.

random note: the introduction to this particular edition starts with the following sentence: "I first met Rex Stout sometime in the early 1950s when our daughters were classmates at Oakwood School, a Quaker boarding school in upstate New York." didn't think much about it until i turned the page
Dec 09, 2016 Gwynne rated it really liked it
Very lightweight and amusing. Manages to depict 1950s attitudes toward sex and pregnancy without seeming actually to espouse the worst of them.
Alexis Neal
Feb 11, 2014 Alexis Neal rated it it was ok
Shelves: audio, mystery
It's just a fancy charity dinner for unwed mothers--what's the worst that could happen? Archie, roped into attending at the last minute as a favor for a sick friend, is about to find out. When one of the unwed mothers drops dead after sipping some cyanide-laced champagne, the police are ready to call it suicide. After all, the girl had cyanide with her, in her purse, and had threatened to kill herself with it in the past. But Archie saw the whole things, and he's positive the girl was murdered ...more
Sep 07, 2016 Tony rated it really liked it
My Grade = 88% - B+

First published in 1958. In this one Archie is coaxed by an acquaintance into taking his place at a social event. Archie is told that one of the guests has threatened to commit suicide by drinking cyanide that she carries in her purse, so Archie keeps a close eye on both the girl and the purse.
Surely enough the girl drinks a glass of champagne (for one) and shortly after dies of cyanide poisoning. The police and everyone else assumes that she committed suicide, but Archie swea
Sep 11, 2016 RumBelle rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
Nero Wolfe is one of my favorite detective characters. Erudite, stubborn, grumpy and incredibly intelligent. However, why I really love these books is Archie. Nero's assistant and a detective in his own right, he is the one who leaves the house and actually does all the leg work. Archie is brash, sarcastic, smart and clever. He narrates the novels and so you get to see a case unfold as he works on it. This was a complex mystery about a young woman poisoned in a room full of party guests. The ...more
The whole time I was listening to this story, I kept seeing the episode of "Nero Wolfe" starring Timothy Hutton that this book was based on. They were very true to the story.
At the beginning of the book, Archie is invited to be one of the swains at a philanthropist's party. The man (now dead) left money so that five girls from his home for unwed mothers could learn the social graces. At the beginning of the night, Archie's companion tells him that one of the other girls carries a vial of poison
Nan Silvernail
Feb 18, 2012 Nan Silvernail rated it really liked it
Unwed mother, Faith Usher had some cyanide in her purse and told other unwed mothers and staff at Grantham House that she just might take it someday, so no one is surprised when she does so at a party - Except Archie Goodwin. He was there and was watching Miss Usher and her purse and he is willing to swear that she didn't poison herself. Now everyone's mad at him, but Archie is standing firm. He saw what he saw and didn't see what he didn't see. Can Nero Wolfe solve the mystery and vindicate his ...more
Mar 02, 2011 Apio rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I picked up this book after watching an episode a Nero Wolf series in which a woman hires Wolf to get the FBI off her back after she mailed out 10,000 copies of a back exposing the FBI. After watching the episode, I decided to see what I could find out about Rex Stout. I learned that he had been involved in anti-atom-bomb activities, anti-McCarthyism activities and had himself been investigated by the FBI and a third of his file is for writing the book on which that episode was based. So I ...more
Feb 04, 2016 Chazzi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
Archie does a favour for a past client's relative and it turns out to be murder in high society.

While filling in at a charity dinner for a select group composed of unwed mothers, well connected single men and the doyenne of high society, one of the mothers dies of poisoning right before everybody's eyes. Her comments of committing suicide were well known, but did she really do it? Archie says no, but won't say why. Even under pressure by the attendees, the police and the D.A.

Even though this is
Jun 06, 2015 Alger rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Let us be honest, Rex Stout wrote better dialogue and characters than mystery plots. It is the rare person who would read a Nero Wolfe novel for a brain teasing tale of murder most vile and cunning. Instead it is the comforting narration by Archie and his acid asides that make these books a joy to read. I have to assume Stout knew this as well, since so many of his late novels are exercises of style with a plot going on in the background. But such style!

There is a mystery going on in this book,
May 07, 2014 Hope rated it it was amazing
Haughty Mrs. Robilotti hosts an annual dinner for unwed young women who spend their pregnancies at Grantham House, the charitable institute founded by her millionaire first husband. By chance, Archie Goodwin is asked to fill in for one of the young society men at the dinner, which Wolfe calls a "burlesque of hospitality." The genius is right. Archie's social discomfort turns to horror when one of the young women is poisoned right in front of him. The other guests think it's suicide, but Archie ...more
Michelle Robinson
Jul 07, 2013 Michelle Robinson rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery-thriller
This was a good Nero Wolfe/ Archie Goodwin novel. I had never heard of this one and I am glad that one of my goodread friends had recently read and rated it.

It was brief, as many of Stout's novels are. However, the mystery was well plotted and I did not have any idea who had committed the murder until the end.

Dinky Byne was a disgusting little parasite but then people like that are often found in old mysteries.

This was a very satisfactory read. We see Fred Durkin being a bit much in this novel
Apr 22, 2015 Sandy rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
Quintessential Wolfe and Archie. Archie is talked into attending a dinner; while there a young lady is murdered. Of course, he's upset that a murder is committed while he was standing right there! One of the suspects hires Wolfe to prove he didn't do it. I have to admit that the real murderer was not who I suspected; last minute revelations leave no doubt about the identity. My dad loved Rex Stout mysteries and introduced me to them. Wolfe is no Sherlock Holmes, but then who is? Wolfe is however ...more
Nov 28, 2010 Stefanie rated it really liked it
I picked this book up for two reasons: (a) My brother is a die-hard Nero Wolfe fan and (b) I had seen the dramatization and wanted to clarify a few points (and see how closely the novels were adapted to the screen). The result? I see why my brother enjoys these books, and the episode covering this book was astoundingly close to what appeared on the page. This particular mystery hinges on a motive that I don't think translates very well to a more modern era, which is why I wanted to make sure I ...more
***Dave Hill
Dec 27, 2013 ***Dave Hill rated it it was amazing
Shelves: text
A well-crafted NW novel, featuring some of the best aspects of the series -- a focus on Archie (his attitudes, his social circle, his attitudes toward women, his determination, his ego), and on the Wolfe/Archie relationship (Wolfe's willingness to commit himself to Archie's cause, based solely on his assistant's testimony). It's also a nice exemplar of the society of the era -- one of the things Stout does so well in the 30-40 year range he wrote these characters.

This is one of the volumes I wo
Dec 14, 2014 Ed rated it really liked it
#31 in the Nero Wolfe series. In a familiar premise for a Wolfe tale, Wolfe and Archie have a contrarian position that a death was murder rather than accident or suicide.

Nero Wolfe supports Archie Goodwin's claim that a poisoned woman at a dinner he attended was murdered when everyone else would be happy to call it a suicide. The dinner was a charity affair for unwed mothers and the past of the poisoned woman provides Wolfe with a client and plenty of suspects.
May 27, 2008 Molly rated it liked it
Shelves: mysteries
Vera and I were talking about hard-boiled detectives and she asked me if I'd read any of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe books. I hadn't, so I gave this one a test run. Thank you, Vera! I loved it. I'm now in the throes of a crush with Archie Goodwin, the narrator. And Mr. Wolfe is too wonderful to pass up. Stout wrote something like 75 of these books. It's so delicious to know that I'll be able to snack on them in the upcoming years.
Joan Schrock
Feb 11, 2015 Joan Schrock rated it liked it
Nero Wolfe, once again, solves what seems to be the impossible murder mystery with the help of his personal assistant, chef, and three investigators whom he hires to help with the leg work. Nero Wolfe never leaves his New York City Brownstone and rooftop greenhouse where he raises rare orchids. Rex Stout stories are a favorite of mine becuase they are light , easy reads with very little explicit violence or sex.
Vicki Cline
Jan 12, 2013 Vicki Cline rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: other-mysteries
An acquaintance of Archie's asks him to fill in for him at a dinner given by the man's rich aunt for some unmarried mothers. One of them dies from poison and Archie is the only one who insists it was murder and not suicide, even though the young woman had often talked about killing herself and she was killed by the same kind of poison she carried around in her purse. As usual, I had no idea who the culprit was.
Sheela Word
Nov 28, 2013 Sheela Word rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery-suspense
Typically clever Nero Wolfe mystery. Someone is poisoned at a party for unwed mothers, right in front of Archie. It appears to be suicide but is, of course, murder. The most likely suspect hires Wolfe to carry out an investigation. One of Archie's acquaintances seems to know something, and Archie has to turn the screws to find out what. Meanwhile, the orchids keep blooming, the meals keep being fabulous, and the wit keeps flowing. Why are these formulaic novels SO MUCH fun?
Nancy Butts
Jun 07, 2016 Nancy Butts rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery
Book #31 in the Nero Wolfe series. In this one a young unwed mother—the former resident of a home for unwed mothers funded by a trust left by a dead philanthropist—is killed while attending an annual dinner-dance at the home of the dead man’s widow. Archie had attended the dinner as the last-minute substitute for an acquaintance, so he is there to insist that no, she did not commit suicide, as everyone including the police believe. That’s how Wolfe is brought into the investigation.
Oct 05, 2013 Maria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Maria by: Wyatt
Shelves: mystery
I have heard of Nero Wolfe nearly all my life but have never been tempted to pick up one of these books until my son starting reading them recently. I borrowed this one and found it surprisingly well-written and interesting. No bad language (the worst word in it was "crap"), no unnecessary gore and violence, and a crime that couldn't have been committed but was. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and will soon be reading another.
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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)

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“In a world that operates largely at random, coincidences are to be expected, but any one of them must always be mistrusted.” 12 likes
“You can't dance cheerfully. Dancing is too important. It can be wild or solemn or gay or lewd or art for art's sake, but it can't be cheerful.” 6 likes
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