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The Second Confession (Nero Wolfe, #15)
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The Second Confession (Nero Wolfe #15)

4.07  ·  Rating Details ·  1,802 Ratings  ·  94 Reviews
When a millionaire businessman hires the sedentary detective to snoop on his daughter's boyfriend, Wolfe finds himself caught in a labyrinthine case involving drugged drinks, murderous debutantes, and a gangland boss.
Paperback, 256 pages
Published May 1st 1995 by Bantam (first published September 6th 1949)
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Dec 08, 2014 Evgeny rated it really liked it
It started innocently enough. A millionaire asked Nero Wolfe to get a proof his daughter's boyfriend is a member of US Communist Party (we are talking about McCarthyism era here when people were afraid of Communists - replaced by terrorists these days - and were sure they eat babies for breakfast). This is a typical conflict between the fathers and sons (daughters) where the father does not approve his potential son-in-law and the daughter dates the guy just in spite.

Nero Wolfe - or Archie Good
Bill  Kerwin
Jan 08, 2016 Bill Kerwin rated it really liked it

This first-class Nero Wolfe entertainment is the second of his three encounters with his own personal Professor Moriarty, Arnold Zeck.

Wolfe finds himself opposing Zeck once again when he is hired by business tycoon Sperling to investigate his prospective son-in-law Rony (a Zeck associate) whom Sperling believes may be a member of the Communist Party. Zeck is of course displeased, and soon nobody or no thing--not even Wolfe's precious orchids--is safe. Mercifully, the two masterminds soon come to
Jul 20, 2016 Franc rated it it was amazing
I’ve been reading the Archie Goodwin mysteries (as I call them because it's the quality of Archie’s narration, not Wolfe’s deductive skills or idiosyncrasies that make the series great) at a rate of about two per year for some time, and I'm up to the 15th book. Apparently Rex Stout wrote his first Nero Wolfe book at 47 (a hopeful thought) and then dashed off a couple a year until he died in his 90s. So I figure I’m reading them at about the same rate as he produced them, and am hopeful I will st ...more
Perry Whitford
Aug 06, 2016 Perry Whitford rated it really liked it
James U. Sperling, chairman of the board of the Continental Mines Corporation and a man who 'didn't bite ears off ... because he took whole heads and ate them bones and all', suspects that his youngest daughter is dating a communist, so he hires Nero Wolfe to produce the evidence.

Louis Rony may or may not be a communist, but as Wolfe soon discovers, if he is then that would be the least of his crimes. Much worse than that suspected affiliation is his connection with the only criminal Wolfe fears
Nov 15, 2009 Daniel rated it really liked it
By 1949, Rex Stout had written fifteen crime novels featuring the homebody gardener/detective Nero Wolfe, and the no-nonsense series was a reliable source of entertaining puzzles.

The Wolfe books make good use of the body-mind split concept, with Wolfe—-an obese man who uses an elevator to go from floor to floor in his home—-pondering cases mentally at home while his younger assistant Archie Goodwin performs the legwork and all necessary seductions. The Second Confession, however, breaks from for
Bruce Blaney
Aug 06, 2014 Bruce Blaney rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Anti-Communism is not good literature

Stout is too much the servant of mindless cold war ideology. Very disappointing read. Poor plotting and weak character development.
Jan 04, 2014 Becky rated it it was amazing
The Second Confession might just be my new favorite, favorite Nero Wolfe novel. I didn't think it was possible to love Wolfe and Goodwin more than I already did, but spending two days with this book proved that I had more love to give. I loved, loved, loved every minute of this mystery.

Mr. Sperling hires Wolfe as a private detective "to prove" that his daughter's boyfriend is a communist. Wolfe is reluctant to take on a case with those terms. He argues that what Sperling desires is not proof tha
Feb 19, 2016 K rated it liked it
I found it difficult to become involved in this one. Perhaps had the story had more velocity. Things didn't feel like a good old Nero Wolfe mystery until the second half, and it seemed that even Archie's part was a bit subdued.
Stout wrote enough winners to justify one that I felt only so-so about for me to remain a fan that will continue reading these delightful old mysteries.
I've been reading these nonstop since I "discovered" Rex Stout for myself a few months ago, and I'm going in order. I'm addicted, and it's 99% percent because of Archie and more generally, because of the way Stout constructs his characters (and not because of the plots/storylines). But #15 was my first disappointment- basically, the story makes NO sense. In other stories, Wolfe sits back at the end and tells all about his methods and explains motive, means, opportunity, but in this one, there is ...more
Jun 28, 2013 Heather added it
Recommended to Heather by: Chip
Shelves: mystery
He kept me guessing right until the end. So many suspects, so many red herrings, and it really could have been anybody! I like how that frustrates the detectives as much as it frustrated me as reader. Lots of great Archie Goodwin moments in this one!
Though it doesn't usually matter in what order you read these books, I got the feeling that it would have helped if I'd read And Be A Villain first, as it refers heavily to events that took place in that book. Even without the background, I was still
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
Two and a half stars. I'm sure this book played a lot better in 1949, in the heat of the McCarthy witch hunts when otherwise rational people saw Communists under every bed and behind every movie or book they didn't personally like. However, I've read it once and a half, and listened to it once, and it just isn't his best work. I know Stout and Wolfe both became more political over the years (see also A Right to Die and a couple of others in the series) but something just seemed to be missing thi ...more
Dannica Zulestin
May 24, 2015 Dannica Zulestin rated it liked it
For a mystery book, excellent!
For a Nero Wolfe book, did not quite meet expectations.
Not that there wasn't plenty of lovely banter between Wolfe and Goodwin, some pretty girls, some murder, etc, etc...But there were a couple factors that were just a bit off.
For one thing, I hate it when the murders take place out of the district. Not because I'm in love with the brownstone but because I'm in love with Cramer and his customary yelling match with Wolfe over whether Wolfe is obstructing the investi
Alison C
Mar 10, 2015 Alison C rated it liked it
Published in 1949, The Second Confession, by Rex Stout, once again finds our intrepid hero and his sidekick, Archie Goodwin, wending their way through the wiles and deceptions of a wealthy family (and hangers-on) to ferret out the identity of a murderer. Interestingly enough, this book includes a mysterious Mr. X, who turns out to be Wolfe's Moriarty, and a more menacing character I haven't seen in this series - and the character only shows up in the form of a few telephone calls in this book! A ...more
Edgar Raines
I have always been a fan of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe mysteries. This title from the late 1940s features Stout's plotting and his character development at the height of his powers--which is to say very, very good. Nero Wolfe is a hard character to like--although even he has his moments--but the wise cracking Archie Goodwin is the kind of person boys hope that they can become and old men wish they might have been. Stout's books are almost always firmly grounded in the times in which they were writte ...more
Nov 09, 2015 astaliegurec rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The Second Confession" is the 15th book in Rex Stout's "Nero Wolfe" series. It was first published in 1949, and since these books mirror the prevailing issues of the day, it's interesting to note how fast the enemies changed in society. In the previous couple of book, the common enemies were Japan/Germany (WWII). In this book, it's the "Commies" (Cold War). Anyway, that's just an interesting aside. The writing, story, characters, humor, etc., are all excellent. The only quibble I've got is that ...more
Cameron Toney
Dec 07, 2015 Cameron Toney rated it liked it
Shelves: mysteries
All the elements are there- the sedentary detective, the roguish assistant, a billionaire in help of trouble, a pair of lovely sisters, and a political plot. Oh, and a shadowy nemesis,lurking in the shadows. But this particular Nero Wolfe mystery is a little flat.
It probably doesn't help that this story seems rather dated, what with the huge references to Communism, and a political world that seems rather removed from our own. Not helping is the relative flatness of some of the supporting charac
Feb 13, 2016 Peggy rated it really liked it
I am a big fan of Rex Stout and Nero Wolfe. Actually I am a bigger fan of Archie Goodwin, Private eye Wolfe's assistant. Archie makes this series go. He is funny, smart, and just about the only person on earth who gives as good as he gets from his arrogant genius boss. In this book Wolfe is hired by a rich industrialist to determine if his daughter is dating a Communist. Keep in mind Stout wrote this book in 1949 and The Cold War was raging. Archie goes to the wealthy man's home and finds more t ...more
Dec 25, 2013 Nancy rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites, mysteries
One of the greatest pleasures I find in reading Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe mysteries is the total immersion into Mid-Century Manhattan:

. . . Archie taking his dates dancing at The Flamingo Club;

. . . the "downtown" culture of walking to most appointments and only taking the car for out-of-town excursions;

. . . the dapper wardrobe details of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin;

And it goes on and on. But, that fidelity to time and place also can date the books and The Second Confession might be perceived to
Christopher Rush
Sep 10, 2014 Christopher Rush rated it really liked it
Shelves: nero-wolfe
Though all Wolfe stories are different to some degree, this was clearly the most distinct in the canon thus far: Wolfe not only leaves his house (which he has done in other stories, to be sure), but his house is attacked by the mysterious person quickly becoming an arch-nemesis to Wolfe. The pacing is much more rapid than most Wolfe books: we have a sense of urgency from the beginning that drives through the first half of the novel. Even when the pace slows down around the 3/4 mark, we still fee ...more
Thomas Paul
Aug 08, 2013 Thomas Paul rated it really liked it
James Sperling's younger daughter has expressed an interest in a young man named Louis Rony and Sperling doesn't like him. He is convinced that Rony is a communist and to a dedicated wealthy capitalist like Sperling, being a communist is about the worst sin a man is capable of committing. He wants Wolfe to find sufficient proof so that he can get his daughter to drop Rony. Wolfe is reluctant to take the case but in the end he does.

An acquaintance of Wolfe objects to his taking the case and uses
Jul 17, 2014 Ellen rated it it was amazing
Another dimension of Nero and Archie revealed, August 14, 2012
By Ellen Rappaport (Florida)
This review is from: The Second Confession (Nero Wolfe Mysteries) (Mass Market Paperback)
I love going back to the old Brownstone and listening in while Nero organizes clues as he delves into another case.

This case , however, involves Zeck aka Mr. "X":. Wolfe states in no uncertain terms that he hopes never to hear his voice or hear the name of Zeck again. And why you might ask. Nero is afraid of what he
Jun 01, 2011 Tony rated it really liked it
Stout, Rex. THE SECOND CONFESSION. (1949). ****.
You have to realize that this novel featuring Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin was written in 1949, at the height of the Communist scare and the onset of Russian Cold War tactics. The millionaire owner of a mining consortium meets with Wolfe in his office and has a job for him. He wants Wolfe to prove that a young man who is currently seeing his daughter is a Communist. That proven, he can then expect his daughter to break off the relationship that h
Nan Silvernail
Feb 17, 2012 Nan Silvernail rated it really liked it
Mining magnate James Sperling hates communists. He feels if he can prove his daughter's slick lawyer boyfriend is one, she will drop him like something red-hot (sorry, couldn't resist). But someone doesn't want Wolfe on the case and warns him off in a horrifying way - by raking Wolfe's precious rooftop orchids with Tommy Guns! But when someone kills the boyfriend, suddenly the mysterious someone wants Wolfe to solve it. Of course, Wolfe already wants to find out who had the audacity to use his p ...more
Jul 01, 2010 Mmyoung rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery
Mystery writers who create a genius detective/protagonist face the problem of how to keep things interesting as their series extend over time. The first few mysteries are not a problem since the writer still has a full chest of ideas to work with and the reader is still learning about the detective. As the series continue, however, the writer is not only faced with the problem of devising new mysteries to be solve she/he is also faced with a larger problem. Given that most (real life) crimes are ...more
Jun 07, 2013 Benjamin rated it liked it
A pretty good Wolfe story; one of the few in which Wolfe leaves the office on business, although he does not do so in nearly as entertaining a manner as in previous installments in the series. Wolfe's nemesis Zeck makes an "appearance" in this novel, and I don't like the idea that Wolfe has to have a nemesis so this book is automatically not one of my favorites in the series. I guess it makes sense from a marketing perspective, but I just don't think it's needed. As I understand it isn't a recur ...more
Oct 04, 2015 Dahl rated it really liked it
Shelves: recommendations
Nero Wolfe tangles with one of the great enemies of his country: The American Communist Party and its Soviet masters, in a bid to find a murderer and save a wealthy man's daughter from their clutches. However, nothing is as it seems, even among people thought to be allies or friends...

Excellent work by Rex Stout. Not one of the best as it drags at certain intervals, but it is a good story with mystery twists which leave the reader shocked at points. Well worth the read in the end.
Feb 07, 2016 Hermioneginny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Un uomo d'affari assume Nero Wolfe per dimostrare che il ragazzo della figlia sia un membro del Partito Comunista. Un malavitoso gli intima di lasciar perdere, distruggendo a colpi d'arma da fuoco la sua amata serra. E quando il ragazzo viene trovato morto, Archie è il primo sospettato.

Fa sorridere oggi che far parte di un partito poteva essere una colpa enorme, ma non bisogna dimenticare il contesto del Maccartismo, che procurò guai anche a tanti artisti. E poi Nero Wolfe esce spontaneamente di
Jun 02, 2008 Sun rated it really liked it
Shelves: bookaweek2008
The setup: Sperling is convinced that his daughter's boyfriend, Rony, is a Communist but has no proof. He engages Nero Wolfe to find it. Wolfe dispatches Archie (disguised as 'Andy') to spend a weekend with the family. The supposed Communist turns up dead.

The review: Subversive communism dates this book but Stout steers it neatly away from politics after the introduction and focuses it firmly on the mystery. The involvement of Zeck, the Moriarty to Wolfe's Holmes is the highlight of this book.
Binx Gray
Hmm, my mother was a Nero Wolfe lover back in the day. I never read one till now. Can't say I'm a fan, at all. I found the writing stilted, either sentences (or dialog) was clipped, like shorthand, or the sentences were convoluted and ran on with no regard to grammar. I found myself having to re-read a lot. The denouement, like the rest of the story I found confusing. I can't even blame this on the fact that the book is dated. I've read other whodunits that are even older which hold up quite wel ...more
Sep 10, 2016 Steve rated it really liked it
Sept 2016 book on tape - now that I am taking the Expo line downtown, it takes much longer to finish a book on tape. I enjoyed the story and the characters. Instead of being dated, I think of the Nero Wolf stories as "period pieces in the 1940's.
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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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“She had been a pleasant surprise. From what her father had said I had expected an intellectual treat in a plain wrapper, but the package was attractive enough to take your attention off of the contents....she was not in any way hard to look at, and those details which had been first disclosed when she appeared in her swimming rig were completely satisfactory.” 3 likes
“When, sometime around my fortieth birthday, I was struck by the urge to try to write a novel, I was vastly comforted to learn that Rex Stout didn’t write his first Nero Wolfe tale until he was forty-seven, and that he proceeded to write them right up to his death at the age of eighty-eight. It was considerably less comforting to learn that he typically completed a novel in thirty-eight days, and that he always got it right on the first try. P. G. Wodehouse once said, “Stout’s supreme triumph was the creation of Archie Goodwin.” That’s how I’ve always felt about it, too. When I returned those first Rex Stout books to my librarian, I said to her, “Do you have any more of these Archie Goodwin stories?” She smiled, I recall, and said, “Why, yes. Dozens.” 1 likes
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